Redfish Lake Lodge has been welcoming guests and visitors for 85 years! In celebration of this awesome legacy, we want to take a look back at our history and share some fun facts with you. Follow along to see just how much you really know about “The Jewel of the Sawtooths.” And be sure to stop by the Lodge on your next visit, to take a look at some of Redfish’s historical photos and artifacts.
Redfish Lake began attracting visitors after a wagon road was built over Galena Summit in the early 1880s. The area quickly gained praise due to its pristine natural beauty and abundance of fish. As word spread, the lake soon became a commercial fishing destination, drawing large numbers of fishermen looking to supply local restaurants and hotels.
SAWTOOTH FOREST RESERVE
Teddy Roosevelt designated Sawtooth Forest Reserve in 1905, but it wasn’t until the early 1910s that the Forest Service began constructing trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas, throughout the region. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) would return to the area to improve these features from 1937 to 1940.
SAWTOOTH NATIONAL PARK?
The first movement to create Sawtooth National Park began in 1911, followed by a Bill that was defeated in 1913, which sought to formalize the status. The area was designated as the Sawtooth Primitive Area in 1937, but the debate would begin – again – in 1960, when another National Park proposal was promoted by Senator Frank Church. The movement failed once more, leaving the door open for Senator Lee Jordan to propose the establishment of the larger Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1966. The SNRA was finally created in 1972 and, with it, officially designated the former Primitive Area as the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.
Redfish received its first telephone in 1915. It was centrally located to provide service to campers and homesteaders.
ROADS TO HEAVEN
A two-mile road was constructed between Highway 75 and Redfish Lake in 1919. The following year (1920), the wagon road over Galena Summit was improved, and Redfish Lake received its first true tourism boom. As a result, Dick Horstmann planned and received permits to build the Lake Hotel and a small boat rental business on the lake.
THE ORIGINAL CONCESSION
The Redfish Lake Marina can be considered the Longest Running Concession on Redfish Lake, having operated since Dick Horstmann originally established the business in 1920. Understanding the value of such a service in such a beautiful space, Horstmann held onto control of boat rentals even after he began working with Robert Limbert on plans for a Lodge. When Horstmann died, in 1928, Limbert received control of the concession as part of their business dealings, and he opened his operation with two motorboats available in 1929. Boat rentals at the lake have even endured as the Lodge fell upon hard times, following Limbert’s sudden death in 1933, remaining the only available service from 1934 through 1941.
Believe it or not, the first fish recovery program in the region actually began at Redfish Lake in the early 1920s, as a result of dramatic over-fishing. The lake was one of the first locations to receive planted fish in the hope of repairing the damage done by decades of unregulated fishing and trapping. Unfortunately, construction of dams and continued over-fishing in regions outside of our own has resulted in a similar problem state for Redfish’s current sockeye salmon population, which saw a solitary returning salmon (Lonesome Larry) in 1996. The salmon have slowly recovered from Larry’s legacy, with a high of 1,355 returning in 2010. More work has yet to be done, however, as 2013 saw only 131 returners.
Why is this important? Redfish Lake is the final stop on the longest Pacific salmon run in North America, which requires long-distance swimmers, such as Sockeye and Chinook Salmon, to travel over 900 miles upstream to return to their spawning grounds. It’s important to be aware of and protect this impressive feat of nature.
One of Robert Limbert’s original partners and investors in the Lodge was J.L. Kraft, founder of the Kraft Cheese Company. Unfortunately, Kraft was only a small investor and when Limbert’s major investor, Lewis Megowen, lost all his money in the stock market crash of 1929, Limber was left to seek new investors in order to make his lodge a reality. In 1929, Limbert was able to gather his funding and beat out at least two other groups seeking to commercialize tourism on the lake.
When Redfish Lake Lodge opened, in 1929, it consisted of:
- Gas Station
- 8 Canvas Tent Cabins
- Dining Room
- Small Dock + 2 Motorboats
Three duplex cabins – The Rustic Cabins – were finished in 1931. Today, they stand in their original positions near the Lodge. While these excellent units were updated in 2006, they still hold all of their original charm, especially in #1 and #2, where guests can still enjoy the original stone hearth fireplace which was laid together by Robert Limbert and his family during the original construction.
DARK DAYS AT REDFISH
Robert Limbert died of a brain aneurysm in June of 1933 and the Lodge wouldn’t be the same for years. The sudden and unexpected nature of the death left his estate reeling at what his expectations were and, as a result, the Lodge is believed to have closed for the majority of the time period from 1934 to 1941. Naturally, when World War II grew in 1941, Redfish Lake and its recreational callings were not available either. This status remained from 1941 through 1945. In 1946, the Lodge was reopened by new owners, which seemed to reinvigorate the interest in the area.
Redfish Lake received its first power lines in 1954. Soon after, the Lodge was wired for electricity, and it has remained a significant feature ever since. While the rustic accommodations still discourage reliance upon electricity, all cabins have been updated to feature modern comfort and convenience (Oh, and electricity).
IMPROVING THE FOREST
In 1958, the Forest Service began an era of major development near Redfish Lake. That year, Point and Outlet Campgrounds were constructed along Redfish’s shoreline, as well as a boat launch (located near the Lodge) and a Visitor’s Center, which first opened in 1962. Construction of more campgrounds and interpretive areas would be soon to follow.
Here’s a list of the various owners of Redfish Lake Lodge over the course of its 85 year history. Follow along to see if there are any names you recognize.
- Dick Horstman – opened the Lake Hotel and Boat Rentals in 1920
- Robert Limbert – founded Redfish Lodge in 1929, signing a 100 year lease for land use
- George S. Krom – Lodge General Manager, received ownership control upon Limbert’s death in 1933
- Roy Butcher and Jess Worthington – Purchase and re-open Lodge in 1946
- Loran and Helen Olson, Pret and Sally Maughan, & Jay and Pearl Gorton – Purchase Lodge from Butcher and Worthington in 1953
- Redfish Lake Enterprises, consisting of Bob Coiner, Ken Brown, Mel Jensen, and Bob Tucker – Purchased Lodge from Olson and Maughan Families in 1959 (Gortons opted out in 1954)
- Donald See Family, with management by Jack & Patty See – Purchase Lodge from Redfish Lake Enterprises in 1971
- Crouch Family (Arlen & Derrel), with management by Jeff & Audra Clegg – Began negotiations for the Lodge in 1996, finalizing the purchase in 1998, and taking ownership control in 1999.
Construction of Idaho Highway 21 was completed in 1960, resulting in far more direct and convenient access to the Stanley area from Boise. This increased tourism and improved quality of life throughout the region, as supplies became more readily available and access to government and population in Boise become more easily attained.
THE CHANGING LODGE
When it opened in 1929, Redfish Lake Lodge consisted of a dining room and kitchen with a small porch and lobby. Lodging was located on the second story in a few small rooms or separate from the building itself, with guests staying in six duplex cabin units nearby. In 1960, the – now famous – front porch was constructed as a larger gathering space for viewing the beach and scenery. Upon construction of the new porch, the original porch was converted to the Lodge’s current lobby area and the original lobby space was converted to Rustic Lounge. In 1978, the Lodge underwent a major renovation and expansion in which several lodging rooms were added, as well as additional eating and preparation space. In 2012 and 2013, Lodge rooms #9 and #10 received upgrades to improve lakefront suite options. A major expansion and addition is underway and is set for construction at a date in the near future.
ADDING MORE SPACES
Redfish Lake Lodge maintained its charm as a small escape in the Sawtooths through the early 1960s, when demand for greater amenities, services, and space, resulted in the beginning of a major growth period. After renovations and expansions to the Lodge in 1960, the following additions and improvements were made:
- Current General Store – Built in 1961
- Original General Store becomes Executive Cabin #7 – Converted in 1961
- Pinerest Suites – Built in 1965
- Lodgepole Rental Unit (now Employee Housing) – Built in 1966
- Manager’s Cabin (original materials from Miner’s Cabin near Joe’s Gulch) – Built in 1976
- Laundry & Public Shower Facility – Built in 1978
- Deluxe Cabins – Built in 1980
- Lake Cabin (originally Manager’s Cabin, quickly changed due to high demand) – Built in 1986
- Lake Suites, Fishhook Cabins, Getaway Cabin, & Gazebo – Built in 1987
- Permanent (T-Shaped) Docks – Built & Anchored in 2001
- Creekside & Honeymoon Cabins – Built in 2002
- Kokanee Suites & New Housekeeping/Laundry Facility – Built in 2003
- Rustic Cabins – Remodeled/Updated in 2006
- Gazebo – Remodeled/Updated in 2009
- Lodge Room #10 (King Bed) – Suite Remodel in 2012
- Lodge Room #9 (Queen/Twin) – Suite Remodel in 2013
- Lake Suites – Update/Remodel in 2013