With its sweeping views of the Columbia River, beautiful grounds and scenic inn, I’ve found a new favorite place. Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge is a great escape, just about two and a half hours from Yakima.
“Skamania” is a word of the Chinook Tribe, meaning “swift water.” With the Columbia River and an advertised 70 waterfalls nearby, including the famous Multnomah Falls, the name seems appropriate. There was also an aura of peace about Skamania Lodge when I visited recently, despite the large medical convention on site. The property’s 175 wooded acres offer a relaxing break from everyday life.
Built in 1993 as a partnership among the Columbia River Gorge Commission, the Forest Service, Skamania County and Grayco Resources, Inc., Skamania Lodge has a beautiful blend of the old and the new. The official guest guide tells of 100-year-old timbers repurposed from a cannery in Astoria, Oregon, for some of the columns of the great room and 150- to 200-year-old pine flooring imported from a building in Georgia.
Petroglyph rubbings scattered throughout the lodge portray elements of Native American history. In contrast, expansive meeting rooms at the lodge offer 70-inch smart TVs; there is a full-service spa and fitness center; and the grounds include ziplines and aerial platforms set up in a “tree ninja” course.
“What makes us a little bit different is that we’re the only lodge in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area,” said Kara Owen, director of sales and marketing for Skamania Lodge. “This is an area that’s protected for wilderness outdoor recreation. The lodge was sort of designed like the older park lodges, with central gathering spaces and windows that look to the Gorge and the forest.”
There seems to be something for just about everyone at Skamania. If your idea of a getaway is to sit quietly with a book and gaze out over the Columbia River to the Oregon Cascade Mountains, there’s a choice of rocking chairs set inside floor-to-ceiling windows or Adirondack chairs on a stair-stepped concrete viewing area outside.
For more adventurous spirits, the ziplines range from 100 to over 900 feet long and the tree ninja course allows you to walk across elevated platforms and tree stumps in forest land on site. There are running courses and several miles of hiking trails, interspersed with features such as a picnic area or fitness stations. There is a par-70 golf course that winds through the woods, offering occasional glimpses of the Gorge. There’s even an ax-throwing site, in which you can release some of that tension from daily life as you aim for a wooden bull’s-eye!
The lodge itself combines wide-open spaces and high wooden ceilings with elements of interest. There are towering fireplaces built of river rocks, splashes of color in rugs with geometric designs, green plants, an inviting basket of shiny red apples casually placed on a rustic coffee table, and even a large Sasquatch cutout advertising outdoor adventures. Images of explorers Lewis and Clark and a map of their exploration route decorate the walls as do colorful paintings of red wolves and (for unknown reasons) blue deer. A brochure available at the front desk allows for a self-guided tour of art throughout the lodge.
Other special features at Skamania Lodge include an indoor, salt-water swimming pool and an outdoor Jacuzzi set amid large rocks and vegetation. The onsite Cascade Dining Room has specials such as prime rib and fresh seafood options, with a so-called Northwest “farm-to-table” focus. The River Rock Lounge offers a selection of Northwest wines and beers, comfortable seating, and more scenic views from outdoor seating in warmer weather.
Many of the 254 guest rooms at Skamania are undergoing renovation, with the project expected to be done by this summer. Rooms have an understated, earth-tone décor, with fireplaces included in some, carpeting with a design reminiscent of Native American basket weaving, flat-screen TVs and coffee makers, at a cost of $189 to $499 per night, depending upon season and room type. (One suggestion is to reserve a room on the north side of the building, which is further away from the railroad tracks and may be quieter. I did not do this and heard a few trains going past during the night.)
Another lodging option at Skamania is to stay in one of four deluxe treehouses, situated 20 feet above the ground. Each has a deck, king-sized bed (and optional queen-size day bed), sitting area, private shower and attached staircase. One of the tree houses is handicap accessible with a ramp up to the front door. Rates for the tree houses range from $399 to $699 per night.
And there is no shortage of attractions to visit near Skamania. Beyond the extensive grounds, you can visit Cascade Locks, the legendary Bridge of the Gods, or book a ride with Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Cruises. There’s the Meadowrock Alpacas Farm about 45 minutes away. Rafting and fishing are accessible nearby. The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum, a few minutes away, has displays which trace history from Native American life to early colonial days, plus an eclectic assortment of items ranging from a steam engine and antique cars, to a collection of more than 4,000 rosaries. Plus, of course, some 40 wineries, advertised to be within 40 miles, extend along both sides of the Columbia River.
Before long, I plan to go back to Skamania, to refresh and recharge. This time, I’ll be prepared with a good book or two. I think I’ll even sign up for the zipline!