About the Project

The development crew of the new Minam River Lodge

The original Minam River Lodge dates to 1950, when local outfitters Mert and Erma Loree purchased the wilderness property to build a little hunting lodge.

The couple used mules to haul lumber and building supplies through miles of mountainous switch-back trails. The business thrived for years, attracting customers eager to hunt in a prized area known as “Mert’s Meat Locker.”

Over the decades and through a succession of owners, the Lodge fell into disrepair. By the time native Oregonian Barnes Ellis purchased the Lodge in 2011, the log structures were beyond fixing and the beautiful wilderness property was littered with broken-down equipment and junk that had piled up over the years.

Rebuilding the Lodge, cabins and infrastructure was a six‑year project.

The vision shared by Barnes and the team of passionate craftsmen who joined the project was to rebuild a new Lodge and traditional log cabins on the footprints of the original buildings, honoring the beloved property’s history. For its new chapter, we wanted the Lodge to appeal broadly to nature lovers and offer a way to experience this spectacular wilderness in comfort. The new Lodge would feature American craft cooking, a big vegetable garden, renewable energy and activities ranging from self-guided hikes to horseback riding from local outfitters. We also wanted some touches of luxury – hotel-quality linens, a wood-fired hot tub and an on-site massage therapist. An inordinate amount of time also was spent discussing the ideal wilderness bar (hand-rubbed fir with inlaid steel) and the merits of different foraged ingredients for signature cocktails.

Rebuilding the Lodge, cabins and infrastructure was a six-year project. With no road access, we used planes and helicopters to clean up the property and bring in hundreds of loads of new building supplies. Our highly skilled plane and helicopter pilot friends transported everything from heavy-timber trusses to delicate solar panels to the site with hardly a scratch.

We harvested trees from the property to build the log cabins and skidded them across the icy river in the middle of winter, when the frozen Earth would help protect the terrain. We also recycled logs and other materials from the original structures wherever possible.

We milled our own lumber for parts of the project. Many of the finest construction details were done by hand on site, down to the delicate window mullions in the windows of some of the cabins.

We sought to make the Lodge as environmentally sustainable as possible.

We also utilized salvaged wood from around the state. The rosy fir flooring in some of the cabins came from old barrels originally used to make maraschino cherries at a plant in Salem.

Complying with modern building codes and environmental regulations was challenging. The old Lodge had an outhouse steps from the back door and a pipe that discharged gray water from the kitchen directly onto an adjacent slope. The state DEQ required us to install a modern septic system, which took several years of excavating giant boulders and flying in equipment and inspectors. We had to install a pressurized fire sprinkler system in the ground floor of the new Lodge, and a commercial-style restaurant hood for the kitchen. The Lodge had to meet standards for handicapped access under ADA rules.

We sought to make the Lodge as environmentally sustainable as possible. A central wood-burning fireplace heats the structure through a highly energy-efficient heat recovery ventilation system and also provides hot water. Solar power will cover most of our modest power needs.

The new Lodge features the work of several local artists.

Most of the furniture in the Lodge and cabins was designed and built by Oregon’s Liz Holoubek and her husband Alan. Liz, who earned an MFA in furniture design at the Rhode Island School of Design, describes the custom designs as inspired by the values of preservation, simplicity and beauty. “Minam is a place to discover a simple way of being,” she said. The use of reclaimed fir with imperfections “is respectful of our natural resources and brings a little of nature’s beauty indoors to provide warmth and comfort.”

The new Lodge features the work of several local artists. The Raku stoneware on display in the Lodge, as well as the dinner plates and coffee cups, were made by potter Ted Olaf Juve of Enterprise. Ted, the father of Lodge Services Manager Kelsey Juve, explores designs informed by the spiritual and natural worlds. The historic photographs in the Lodge were taken by Kelsey’s great-grandfather, a professional photographer in the area.

Many people also volunteered their time and expertise to make the project a reality. They are too numerous to thank here but their spirit is exemplified by Bonnie Edwards, who arrived at the end of the project to sew the Lodge curtains on site. Bonnie is Manager Isaac Trout’s Mom.

Welcome to the Minam River Lodge!

Top photograph by Ted Battesh