● By Jim Dyar
Photo courtesy of Klamath River Resort Inn
Klamath River Resort Inn
When it comes to the Klamath River Resort Inn, the late Huell Howser might have captured it best: “This looks like a postcard … it’s an absolutely spectacular setting,” said the enthusiastic, longtime host of PBS’ “California Gold” series.
Just outside the doors of a row of rooms (originally built in 1949 as a destination for anglers) stand massive sycamore trees and an expanse of lawn that rolls down to a private beach on the banks of the Klamath River. Visitors won’t find art on the walls, because a different type of art surrounds the place, according to owner James Buchner.
“If you enjoy nature, you’re definitely going to enjoy it here,” Buchner says. “It’s very low stress and that tends to wear off on people. It’s non-commercialized. It’s real out here in nature. There’s no pretension.”
Located just east of Happy Camp on Highway 96, the inn still attracts anglers, especially those seeking salmon and steelhead in October and November. However, families comprise a large bulk of the business throughout the spring and summer months. Kids can roam free on the grassy hillside, skip rocks on the river, enjoy a campfire on the banks, and gaze at stars through a telescope in an area that’s “almost completely free of light pollution,” says Buchner.
The inn also conducts rafting and kayak trips on Class 1 and 3 stretches of the Klamath. The easy Class 1 stretch just upriver from the lodge is popular because the river departs from the highway and takes rafters deep into a nature bonanza. It’s common to see black bear and deer, and almost a given that visitors will see bald eagles and osprey.
“The best thing is when an osprey dives in and grabs a fish, and sometimes an eagle will come in and steal the fish from the osprey,” says Buchner.
That calm and scenic stretch of the Klamath River, typically several degrees warmer than other regional rivers, also affords the opportunity to safely dunk into the water to cool off.
“It’s a very swimmer-friendly river,” says Buchner. “A lot of kids have never been on a river before and it’s a great teaching environment. There are places where we can all jump into the river. It’s so thrilling to be outside the boat floating along in a lifejacket.”
Buchner, who has owned the establishment for 11 years, remembers first coming to the Happy Camp area in 1972 on a family vacation. He continues to enjoy the unplugged feeling of being away from the stresses of urban life, though the Klamath River Resort Inn’s six standard rooms and two-bedroom Herbert Hoover Presidential Suite do include wi-fi and cable TV. Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, owned a cabin near Somes Bar and was a frequent visitor to the area.
In addition to rafting and wildlife viewing, activity options for visitors include gold panning, hiking, swimming holes in area creeks and the Karuk People’s Center Museum in Happy Camp. The Klamath-Siskiyou Art Center, located at the corner of Highway 96 and Davis Road behind the giant Bigfoot sculpture, holds Friday community dinner events at least once a month. The events often include live music and art (for a schedule and more information, check www.ksartcenter.org).
Buchner knows he’s selling a combination of relaxation and nature that comes at an affordable price for families (standard rooms range from $69-$99). It’s not the Hilton, and it’s not located at the edge of Disneyland, but that’s sort of the idea.
“We don’t even have playground equipment, but kids are never bored here,” Buchner says. “They intuitively know how to have fun in nature. They make up their own games. It’s a place where you can shut off the phone, sit on the porch and watch the river and the osprey. You don’t have to worry about driving from place to place. You can just relax.”
Klamath River Resort Inn