Our hearts go out to those affected by the devastating wildfires in the Santiam Canyon. As many of you know, I grew up here and attended Cascade High School, not far from the Santiam River where it flows out of the Canyon and into the pastoral farms and fields between the hamlets of Aumsville and Turner. I know many people who lost everything in the fires as many of my classmates lived and worked in that area.
I spent many summers up in the Canyon fishing with my Dad, resulting in my lifelong love of the pursuit. We had a favorite fishing spot just outside of the town of Idanha that was always good for a stringer full of rainbow trout. The season opener each May found us among the towering Doug firs, delicate vine maples, and verdant ferns that lined the river canyon. Many a day was spent jumping off the cliffs at Elkhorn into the clear, cold waters of the Little North Fork with friends during those endless childhood summers. I’m thankful for those memories.
We lost some historical icons in these fires that are irreplaceable.
In June, 1929, Dr. Skiff asked Lord & Schryver to provide a design plan for the resort. Their detailed Landscape Development Plan of Breitenbush Resort tract divided the space into 5 areas. Visit our storymap to learn about Lord & Schryver’s work at the hot springs. Scroll to garden #27.
Sadly, reports say the Historic lodge and soaking pools were mostly destroyed in the recent massive wildfires, despite valiant efforts by the firefighters.
Another devasting loss of historical value was the Thetford Lodge, the summer home of Charles A. Sprague, someone that Edith and Elizabeth may have known socially.
After his death, Sprague donated the Lodge to Willamette University. When my sister was a recruiter for Willamette’s Atkinson School of Business, she was able to reserve the lodge for several days each year, often on the Thanksgiving Holiday. Once while visiting, I found a signed copy of Chet Atkin’s greatest hits on vinyl inscribed “To Mr. Sprague, thank you for the wonderful accommodations, Chet.” We will always have cherished memories of Thetford Lodge.
Although we can’t bring back these historical icons of the Santiam Canyon, going forward I hope we make smart decisions about the environmental changes happening right in front of our eyes.
With deepest sympathies for those who have lost,
We spent many happy times at Thetford Lodge in the 70’s and 80’s…it was designed by Portland architect Pietro Belluschi in the 1940’s. I loved seeing your interior photos.
Although I do not share the intimate connection with the Santiam Canyon that you do, I do share a sense of loss of a beautiful part of our nearby Cascade Mountains, which held some of my favorite hiking trails. My alpine and Alaska glacier adventuring years are now long past, and though I never climbed Mt. Jefferson, my treks around and into the Mt. Jeff wilderness area over the past 20 years are a treasured part of my Oregon experience. The sudden appearance of the mountain upon making the final turn out of the trees on the trail to Triangulation Peak is always breathtaking. And though I’ve seen some stunning alpine scenery in Alaska, whether in hiking boots, on Nordic skis, or in the air, the beauty of those scenes would be fairly challenged by that of Jefferson Park. I don’t yet know if, or how many of my favorite trails and places survived the fires, but hope that some of them did.
While the most devastating consequences of the recent fires were the losses of human life, of wild and domestic animals, and the homes and possessions that defined people’s lives, we also lost— as you pointed out — historical icons at Breitenbush Hot Springs and the Sprague Thetford Lodge that held such fond memories for you and your family. While those icons are gone forever, the trees will come back to reclaim the blackened landscape, and eventually restore its former beauty and grandeur. Let us hope that any human intervention in the renewal of our part of the Cascades, as well as that of the many other parts of our state affected by this summers’ wildfires, is done with wisdom, vision, and loving care, with an eye to making our Oregon a safer place to live and re-create.
Thanks, Mark, for this interesting historical account.