–Julia Crowley, EDN
Last February, my husband surprised me with a weekend get away to celebrate Valentine’s Day. When I asked where we were going, he said, “Vida.” At first, I thought, “Vida? What’s in Vida?”, but when he sat down with me at the computer and pulled up the web site for a bed and breakfast named Eagle Rock Lodge, I realized there must be more to Vida than meets the eye.
As we began to head east out of Springfield on Highway 126 towards the majestic Cascade Mountain Range, it was another foggy, chilly February morning in the southern Willamette Valley. We passed through Walterville, and we noticed a distinct cloud line in the sky where the white overcast skies instantly changed to an amazing cerulean blue. After several months of cloud covered skies in Eugene, I was thrilled to see the sun.
Thirty minutes later, we saw the sign for Eagle Rock Lodge and pulled into the driveway that winded down towards the river and the lodge. We parked and headed inside the lobby, which felt much like walking into a friends home. In the great room, where there were dining tables and a family room with a wood burning stove, a father and son played chess at one of the tables. We were greeted by owner, Debbie Dersham, who offered us glass of Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley Vineyards, and we followed her to our room. We were staying in the room named, Meadow View Haven, which had an outside entrance and deck that were on the second floor. The view was gorgeous, and the room had a cozy cabin-like feel with wood paneled walls and a wood stove. Home made cookies and chocolates were on the dresser, and there were plush robes and warm fuzzy socks in the bathroom, just waiting to be used. After we settled in, the peaceful sound of the river could be heard as it flowed along the backside of the lodge.
We took our glasses of wine, and headed outside for a walk along the river. The carefully manicured lawn and gardens looked beautiful even when nothing was blooming, and the fog from the valley was slowly heading in our direction. Although the fog crept along the river banks, we could clearly see Eagle Rock, a stunning tall and thin rock formation, rising high above the cedar and fir trees that line the banks of the river. The lodge was named after this incredible rock formation.
There’s a fire pit circle that sits along the river, but this February afternoon was a little too chilly to be outside for too long, so we headed back inside to warm up near the fireplace in the great room of the lodge. Owner Debbie Dersham joined us and shared the story of Eagle Rock Lodge. The house was built in 1946 by John West, and was once known as West Bar because of a natural gravel bar that lined the river banks. From the thirties through the sixties, the areas along the McKenzie, including Vida, drew Presidents, movie stars and well known authors, such as adventure writer, Zane Grey, to a wooden boat festival that continued annually for thirty some years. The festival ended because several lives were lost as people drifted down the river in their boats after consuming too much alcohol. Because the Dersham’s, Debbie and her husband Randy, both love wooden drift boats, they decided they would revitalize the Annual Wooden Boat Festival.
Each year, on the same day as the opening day of the Oregon fishing season, usually the last Saturday of April, wooden boat enthusiasts float down the McKenzie for the Wooden Boat Parade. Floating in their vintage and new McKenzie River Wooden Drift Boats, which were developed specifically for the McKenzie River, they end up pulling out their boats at the lower lawn of Eagle Rock Lodge where the Dershams have recreated the festival. The McKenzie River Guides Association, which is a group of river guides that provide recreational services including fishing and white water rafting trips in addition to working closely with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and other conservation groups to help preserve and enhance the river’s recreational resources, sells food during the festival and all of the proceeds go to a life jacket program that was put in place by the fire department. The life jacket program provides life jackets to every business up and down the river so anyone at any time can get a life jacket for free. In addition to great food, guest speakers come to the festival including representatives from the Cascade Family Flyfishers who conduct demonstrations on casting and flyfishing for amateurs and seasoned pros. This year, Dersham hopes to have live blue grass music included in the festivities. Randy Dersham is very interested in preserving the history of the McKenzie River Wooden Drift Boats; in fact, the Dershams own and operate a shop where they design and build wooden drift boats, and it’s conveniently located across the street from the lodge.
After a relaxing conversation by the fire, we needed to depart for a short drive up the river to the Holiday Farm Resort where we had dinner reservations. The historical Holiday Farm Resort was built in 1910, and was used as a stage stop until about 1917. In 1924, a restaurant was built along the river in addition to a post office and a general store. Today, the restaurant is housed in the original house that was built in 1910, and the quaint characteristics of early 1900 homes is clearly showcased in this beautiful structure; including, a wrap around porch, hardwood floors, fireplaces, and exposed brick walls. While we waited for a table by the fireplace to become available, we sat in the lobby at a different fireplace and and ordered a glass of wine. Candles were lit along the stairwell that led up to the spa; in fact, the only light in the entire lobby came from candles on the stairs and on the mantle above the fireplace, and from the fire itself. The staff at the restaurant had succeeded in creating a romantic atmosphere for Valentine’s Day diners, and the food was delicious.
In the morning, we headed down to the great room where the dining tables are, and we enjoyed mimosa’s made with fresh squeezed orange juice along with one of the most delicious breakfasts we’ve ever had. Our three course breakfast included seasonal fruit to start with, fresh baked scones, and a ‘savory’, which was the main course, including homemade sausage that was absolutely delicious. The Dershams believe presentation is key to the success of their high quality ingredient, made-from-scratch breakfasts, and it was clearly evident in our ambrosial meal.
Not only is Eagle Rock Lodge the perfect close-by weekend get away for Lane County residents, but it’s also a popular wedding spot. The Dershams offer weekend rentals of the entire lodge, which includes a Friday check-in, Sunday check-out and breakfast for two mornings, for up to twenty-three people, and their property can accommodate up to four-hundred people for the wedding and reception. Each room at the lodge is unique and tastefully decorated, and two of the rooms have hot tubs. My favorite room is the Fireplace Suite, which is accessible from the large back deck and has the original 1947 fireplace along with expansive views of the McKenzie River and Willamette National Forest. Imagine a riverside wedding, dancing under the stars, and sitting fireside in a room with an incredible view.
Whether you’re a fly fisherman, a wooden boat enthusiast, getting married, or simply need a weekend getaway for you and your family, there’s something that’s sure to please everyone at Eagle Rock Lodge. It’s truly a serene gem that makes Vida, Oregon one of my favorite destinations.
Eagle Rock Lodge
49198 McKenzie Highway
Vida, Oregon 97488
I recently found out some exciting news: one of the episodes for the popular television show, Antique’s Road Show, was filmed at Eagle Rock Lodge, and will be airing on PBS, January twenty-third. I’m looking forward to seeing what bits of McKenzie River history will be shown in the Eagle Rock Lodge episode!