Living History of Our Lodge-to-Lodge Rogue River Trip

By: Hanna Ashcraft

Exposed wood, comfy plaid or leather furniture, “gone rafting” sign and fishing poles hung on the wall, and deer nibbling on the grass outside are simply part of the life of the historic lodges of the Rogue River. The rustic charm of the lodges will make you want to pick up the out-of-tune guitar and hum a river ballad in front of the stone fireplace for fellow guests.

Since 2011, ROW Adventures has offered lodge-to-lodge trips on the Rogue River, a unique alternative to camping. On the lodge-based trip, you’ll experience the welcoming nature and hearty meals of two or three historic lodges, depending on your trip. After a day rafting or hiking the river, nothing sounds better than a shower with a comfy bed, which begs the question, how do these lodges operate in a remote setting and federally protected area? We’d like to introduce you to the historic lodges of the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, with individual details and the history of Black Bar, Marial, Half Moon Bar, and Paradise Lodge.

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Rogue’s Historic Lodges

During the 20th century, American attitudes toward wilderness underwent a major shift toward protection. Works of art and literature from folks like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau romanticized the wild. At the same time, conservationists like John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Robert Marshall began to argue the high ecological and social value of undeveloped areas.

The shift of revaluing wilderness affected the Rogue River Valley through two important pieces of legislation that passed in the 1960s. First, the Wilderness Act of 1964 established wild places' ecological and social value, making them worthy of permanent protection from unchecked development. Second, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 recognized partially modified areas as worthy of protection by preserving certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational value in their free-flowing condition.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act divides the Rogue River and surrounding land into three categories based on the degree of development: wild, scenic, and recreational. A ROW Adventures trip takes you through the Wild Section, where the Rogue River is in its most primitive state. Built long before the Wild and Scenic River Act, the historic lodges can continue operations in the Wild Section without further development. They provide the unique opportunity to stay in comfortable accommodations, while in a federally protected, rugged, and remote environment.

 

Black Bar Lodge along the Rogue River in Oregon

Black Bar Lodge

The first lodge you visit on a ROW Adventures lodge-to-lodge trip is Black Bar Lodge around river mile 9. If you were not paying attention to the small bank with ropes, you might miss the docking area altogether. Almost non-existent visible development is a theme for the lodges in the Wild Section of the Rogue River. Upon climbing the bank and walking up the hill, the caretakers will welcome you with freshly baked cookies in front of the main lodge, outfitted with exposed wood and carved wooden bears. You’ll stay in individual cabins, with the opportunity to watch deer or play horseshoes on the expansive lawn.

Quick Facts

  • Owners: Vanessa and John James
  • Capacity: 16 Rooms, 25-35 Guest Capacity
  • Location: River Mile 9, River Left

What’s Unique About the Lodge

  • A naturally occurring spring on the property makes for an idyllic setting while providing a quiet home for rough-skin newts and a place for your ROW Adventures river guides to chill wine.
  • Generators turn off 10 pm - 7 am, making you fully disconnect from the outside world and embrace life on the river.
  • The grassy lawn in front of the main lodge is a great spot to play horseshoes or watch the deer come by to graze.

History of Black Bar Lodge

In the early 1930s, attorney Tom Orderman from Portland, Oregon, purchased the mining claim to the property now known as Black Bar. It’s rumored Zane Grey was a client, and Orderman became interested in Black Bar when visiting the famous writer at Winkle Bar. He hired miners who were living nearby to build the lodge in 1933, including Hal Bitherwox.

Orderman then hired Hal and Bea Witherwox as his caretakers. Hal and Beau hosted Orderman’s friends until they purchased the lodge around the early 1950s. The Witherwox patented and deeded the land, added four more cabins, and began operating it as a commercial fishing lodge.

Meanwhile, Bill and Sally Hull were looking for the next big step in their lives. They discovered Black Bar Lodge through a friend and purchased the lodge from Hal and Beau Witherwox in 1960. The Hull’s children, Zach and Vanessa, grew up on the Rogue River and witnessed rafting trips become popular in the late 1960s, in addition to the consistent fishing groups. Zach became the head guide of the Rogue River Raft Trips Inc., and Vanessa purchased a lodge partnership in 1992 with her husband, John James. After partnering for 16 seasons, Vanessa and John fully purchased Black Bar in 2007 and have enjoyed the operation of Black Bar to this day.

Contact Information:

 

Marial Lodge along the Rogue River in Oregon

Marial Lodge

After visiting the historic Rogue River Ranch, your second lodge on a ROW Adventures trip is Marial Lodge. See if you can spot the stairs before your river guides pull over around river mile 23. Upon climbing the stairs and taking the path through lush vegetation, you’ll see the lodge’s large wood deck. Inside the lodge, board games, puzzles, and books await you next to comfy plaid furniture. During dinner, serve yourself a hefty portion of veggies or potatoes from the lodge’s double lazy Susan’s and admire the mugs for the river guides on the mug wall. From Marial Lodge, you can access the Rogue River Trail, which we hike a section of on both hiking and rafting trips. We bet you'll be inspired by the views!

Quick Facts

  • Owners: Rob and Amber Biscarret
  • Capacity: 12 Rooms, 24 Guest Capacity
  • Location: River Mile 23, River Right

What’s Unique About the Lodge

  • Check out the double Lazy Susan’s in the dining room and the river guide mug wall (a mug must be earned).
  • A creek runs underneath the guest room building - fingers crossed you will stay in that room!
  • Hike to Inspiration Point from the lodge along the Rogue River National Recreation Trail for an inspiring view of Stair Creek Falls.

History of Marial Lodge

The gold mining community, post office, and lodge are all named after the marvelous Marial Billings Akesson. In 1903, Tom Billings, her father, established the 3rd and final post office in the Lower Rogue wilderness. The post office was operated by pack mule or horse until 1963. After the monumental flood of 1965, a rough dirt road was finally added. Raised on the river, Marial began running a small bed and breakfast for the passing fishermen, cooking the day's catch in the 1940s.

In 1966, Marial sold the lodge to Ted Camp, who kept the name and added additional buildings to become what you see today. Ted operated the lodge until he sold it to his niece and her husband in 1982. From there, Pat and Lori Cameron owned and operated the lodge until 2018, creating a homey and welcoming spot in Rogue River.

In 2019, Rob and Amber Biscarret purchased the lodge to continue traditions like harvesting from the garden, maintaining the river guide mug wall, and providing hot coffee at almost any time of day.

Contact Information:

 

Cozy living room interior or Half Moon Bar Lodge along the Rogue River in Oregon

Half Moon Bar Lodge

When you’re on a 4-day rafting or hiking trip, your final night will be at Half Moon Bar Lodge. The stairs at the dock are tough, but what makes them a little easier is knowing there is a large, shaded porch with cool misters waiting for you at the lodge. You’ll be able to clean up in recently renovated rooms with a rain head shower before meandering around the garden or playing disc golf on the spacious lawns. After a chef-prepared dinner, one of the owners will walk you to the end of the airstrip and regale you with wild stories from the property’s history. Staying at Half Moon Bar Lodge is a fantastic way to finish a ROW Adventures trip!

Quick Facts

  • Owners: Brothers Mike and Ben Ross
  • Capacity: 14 Rooms, 32 Guest Capacity
  • Location: River Mile 24.5 on River Left

What’s Unique About the Lodge

  • Meander the landing strip and large garden or take in the stars at night with wide-open skies.
  • Two on-site chefs prepare restaurant-quality meals with ingredients from the garden.
  • Misters on the porch make for comfortable afternoons for reading or happy hour.

History of Half Moon Bar Lodge

Andy Huggins discovered a flat shelf where the Rogue River wraps around the land on three sides like a half-moon. He homesteaded the fertile land in 1920 by building a small cabin and lived there until his death in 1951. The property changed hands several times, but Bill and Bette Norfleet were instrumental in making the lodge similar to what you see today. In anticipation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, they expanded the footprint from a small cabin to a large lodge. During one summer in the sixties, they stripped logs and hung overhead chandeliers in the main dining and gathering room, which remain for you to see when visiting.

After the Norfleet family, another series of owners left their mark on Half Moon Bar Lodge. One owner built the side cabins by bringing in the lumber by helicopter, and another built the hull for the Half Moon Bar jet boat. In the mid-2000s, the lodge sat unoccupied for over a decade.

In 2019, brothers Mike and Ben Ross purchased the lodge and spent two seasons bringing the lodge out of disrepair, including renovating the rooms and common areas, rebuilding the water systems, expanding the kitchen, tilling the land to make a thriving garden, and converting to solar power.

Contact Information:

 

Paradise Lodge camping along the Rogue River in Oregon

Paradise Lodge

Every now and again, ROW Adventures will stay at Paradise Lodge on our third night. With a beautiful wood deck overlooking the river, you can rest easy knowing you won’t have to climb the hillside far. It’s also a great spot to take a moment to appreciate the Rogue River on your final night. Between the board games, volleyball net, and disc golf, time will fly before you’re called in for a family-style dinner. Staying here will make you want to pack your bags because you’ve got two tickets to Paradise!

Quick Facts

  • Owners: John and Cathy Schleining
  • Capacity: 22 Rooms, 50 Guest Capacity
  • Location: River Mile 24 on River Right

What’s Unique About the Lodge

  • The extensive deck overlooking the Rogue River makes the perfect spot to read a book or have a drink from the full bar with Oregon wines and beer with the sound of the river.
  • Go for a hike along the Rogue River Trail, which passes through the lodge’s backyard, or swim in the Paradise Creek waterfalls.
  • Wood-paneled rooms and the main lodge make a cozy, woodsy environment.

History of Paradise Lodge

Charlie Pettinger raised eight children in the pristine, remote wilderness of the Rogue River. He homesteaded an 85-acre piece of land in 1903 and was rarely visited, except for those traveling the Rogue River Trail and the friendly mail delivery service.

Expanding from the small cabin, Deak and Louise Miller constructed the main lodge and began to operate it commercially in the 1950s. Deak Miller’s health began to fail in the early 70s, and he sold the lodge to Curry County Sheriff Allen Boice. Allen’s son, Court Boice, purchased the lodge from his father in the early 1980s. Paradise Lodge welcomed travelers from all over the world, including a few famous folks. Cast and crew, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, and John C. Reilly, bunked at Paradise Lodge while filming “The River Wild” in 1993. President Carter and First Lady, Laura Bush among other celebrities have stayed at the lodge over the years.

In 2005, John and Cathy Shleining purchased the lodge and welcome guests to this day. They remodeled the main lodge and all the cabins.

Contact Information:

 

Rustic, Homey, and Oh So Comfortable

Each of the lodges we visit has character, charm, and the tenacity to thrive in a remote environment. They welcome weary rafters, hikers, and fishermen with a comfy bed, private bathrooms, and meals that will have you leaning back in your chair, fully content with life. With long, documented histories and even more to discover in person, we feel that you’ll love the Rogue River historic lodges as much as we do. If you’re ready to visit the historic lodges, reach out to ROW Adventures to help you decide which trip is best for you.

 

Blog written by: Hanna Ashcraft, travel blogger, content creator, and person behind Moderately Adventurous. 

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