Outside magazine, July 1995
Sometime during the 1930s, Zane Grey, western novelist and angler extraordinaire, wet a line in Oregon's North Umpqua, just north of the Rogue, and never left. His summer camps there--staffed with lackeys, secretaries, and his faithful cook--set standards for comfort and cuisine that for years remained unrivaled, until the Steamboat Inn arrived on the scene.
This venerated lodge, built in 1956 on the site of one of Grey's three camps, fronts a stretch of river designated for fly-fishing only. Its international renown rests chiefly on the Umpqua's legendary steelhead runs--the summer run usually starts around July 4--but trout aren't the only lure. Scores of waterfalls spill out of the Cascades not far away, including 272-foot Watson Falls. Nearby are Crater Lake, the Pacific Crest Trail, and challenging climbing routes, such as those on the northeast face of 9,182-foot Mount Thielsen, 45 miles east. The 70-mile angler's trail on the nonhighway side of the Umpqua is often used by mountain bikers (the inn has a stash of bikes for rent).
Then there's the inn's Fisherman's Dinner, a tradition that dates to Grey's time, which might start with curried zucchini soup, move on to grilled lamb, and finish with a tart of fresh peaches. Afterward, digestion (and sleep) is aided by the sound of the river rushing below the eight rooms in adjacent cabins and two suites with private decks. Farther off in the woods are five "hideaway cottages," each with a fireplace and kitchenette.
The Umpqua has been described as "the graduate school of steelhead fishing." It is indeed swift and tough to fish, but a helping hand is available from Summer Run Guide Service, 503-496-3037. The Steamboat Inn is located 38 miles east of Roseberg on Oregon 138. Cabin rooms are $90 per night for two, suites cost $215, and cottages go for $135. The Fisherman's Dinner, with wine, costs $30 per person. For reservations, call 503-498-2411.