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Spotlight on the Historic Steamboat Inn

Experience natural wonders and winemaker dinners at this Umpqua River fishing lodge.

Along a deeply forested stretch of the North Umpqua River, there’s a revered fishing lodge where time stands still. That’s part of the magic of the Steamboat Inn, a woodsy retreat just under 40 miles from Roseburg, perched on a bluff above one of the most famous stretches of fly-fishing water in the world.

Riverside Cabins Steeped in History 

The first things that will capture your imagination when you walk into the low-slung inn are the nostalgic black-and-white photos peppering the walls. Yes, that’s Jack Hemingway casting in the misty river. The devoted conservationist called the water just upstream from Steamboat Inn “the greatest stretch of summer steelhead water in the United States.”

In the 1930s, prolific western novelist and angler extraordinaire Zane Grey discovered the untamed river and never left. You can find multiple shelves of his hardback books in the Library Lounge, along with other great novels and guides for fireside reading. There are also more historical photos, stacks of board games and floor-to-ceiling windows with river views. 

Built in 1956 on the site of one of Grey’s former fishing camps, the rustic lodge has long been a refuge from urban life. In the rooms, you’ll find no televisions, no phones and very limited internet connections. “At first this makes guests a little nervous,” says Melinda Woodward, who purchased the property with her husband in 2021. “Then after a couple of hours, everyone just relaxes.”

A range of lodging options makes this an ideal stay for all travelers. There are two comfy suites, each with a luxe soaking tub, a private deck overlooking the river and a gas fireplace. Eight river-view cabins also have gas stoves and a shared balcony. Further into the woods, five pet-friendly cottages sleep up to four people and feature a living room with a fireplace and a mini kitchen.

World-Class Fly-Fishing, Waterfall Hikes and Wine Tasting

Today, serious anglers still travel from all over the world to fish the fabled North Umpqua River. “One summer we had anglers visit from every state and seven continents, which included a group of scientists who had been stationed in Antarctica,” says Woodward. You can hire a guide to take you to hidden pockets along the river; or, if you have your own gear, Woodward suggests walking one of the short trails from the lodge to her favorite fishing spot. 

In addition to being surrounded by some of the most challenging steelhead-fishing rivers, the lodge sits near ample woodland hiking trails. Take a scenic drive through the Umpqua National Forest to one of many trailheads that lead to fairy-tale waterfalls, including cascades like Toketee Falls, a double-tiered waterfall, and 272-foot Watson Falls, one of the highest in Southern Oregon. 

Near the town of Roseburg, about 38 miles west of the inn, you can explore the Umpqua Valley wine region, an under-the-radar area producing 50-plus varieties from elegant pinot noirs to brisk grüner veltliners. Check out Experience Roseburg for all the information you need about the area’s attractions.

Winemaker Dinners and Culinary Wonders  

Like much of the lodge, the culinary program is rich with history and local lore. Open for the season in early March, the restaurant offers three meals a day. Mornings kick off with hearty fare ranging from stuffed brioche French toast to hearty eggs Benedict topped with smoked steelhead. On the lunch menu, there’s the heroic Mildred’s Mess, a pile of smoked ham and melted cheddar named after a cook from generations ago. “It’s still a local favorite after fishing,” says Woodward.  

Over the past five years, Woodward has been growing the number of local farmers and ranchers she partners with — which range from family-run farms to a one-woman show. “Our resident baker, Kristen, has made our pies forever,” says Woodward. “She’s also the local 4-H leader and raises pigs for us every year. She takes home all our food scraps to feed them.” 

It’s the three decades of seasonal winemaker dinners, however, that turned this remote lodge into an unexpected culinary destination. Every year from March through mid-June, wine lovers trek to this idyllic lodge for a series of intimate winemaker and guest-chef feasts. “We start in the library with appetizers and a meet-the-winemaker tasting,” says Woodward. 

A multicourse dinner with wine pairings follows, starring matches such as pinot noir with grilled lamb kofta, citrus salmon nayeh with pinot gris, and to finish, a crisp riesling with lemon olive-oil cake flecked with pistachios and petals. For a nightcap, there’s conversation with new friends in the cozy Library Lounge or stargazing on the deck, the symphonic river cascading below.