Yellowstone River Lodge offers ‘homey’ retreat
Lodge provides peaceful river retreat
By LINDA HALSTEAD-ACHARYA Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Sunday, February 7, 2010
COLUMBUS — The Yellowstone River Lodge Cabins and B&B is only half an hour from Billings and barely half a mile, as the crow flies, from Interstate 90. But it’s a world away from today’s fast-paced world.
Situated a stone’s throw from the Yellowstone River, Jan and Dan Sayer’s bed and breakfast offers a peaceful retreat with top-notch accommodations and a down-home atmosphere.
The Yellowstone River Lodge consists of three rooms in the main house and another two studio cabins closer to the river. Cabin rates vary from $125 in the offseason to $165 during summer months, with deals for longer stays. Rooms run between $95 and $105. The river view comes free.
“I don’t think we ever had anyone here who didn’t enjoy themselves,” Dan said.
And what’s not to enjoy? Besides the warm and welcoming rooms, guests have access to roughly a mile of riverbank and cottonwood groves. The bend in the Yellowstone, where the water carves its channel past a sandstone cliff, offers a haven for wildlife and a paradise for bird watchers.
“You can’t go outside without seeing a hawk or an eagle,” Dan said.
And it’s a perfect day’s float from Columbus.
“Put your boat or raft in the Yellowstone River at Columbus in the morning for some great fly fishing, picnicking and sightseeing,” they say. “Take your boat out at the cabins mid- to late afternoon — just in time to barbecue on the deck and take in the breathtaking sunset.”
The secluded setting and the lodge-style accommodations would entice even the inveterate traveler to hang around an extra day or two. Inside the B&B, the décor is accented with rock from the river and massive ponderosa pine logs from just a few miles downstream. Jan’s knack for decorating — from the original artwork to the log cabin quilt her mother made — completes the picture of Western comfort.
If that weren’t enough, guests are welcomed with a basket of fresh fruit, chocolates and nuts. Frequently, there’s also a spread of hors d’oeuvres.
And then there are Jan’s gourmet breakfasts. One day she’ll cook up an open-faced omelet, flavored with fresh herbs grown in their own sunroom/greenhouse. The next day the menu might be puffed pancakes with fresh strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar.
“Another favorite is baked French toast,” she said. “It comes out tasting like a caramel roll.”
From home to B&B
It was four years ago that the Sayers first opened their home to visitors. But their dream began long before that.
“We always wanted to live by the river,” Jan said. “Whenever we headed west, we’d pick out our spot.”
Both were drawn to the area between Park City and Columbus — the same area where Dan’s great-grandfather ran cattle more than a century ago. Accessed from the frontage road, the Yellowstone River Lodge is situated halfway between the two communities.
The couple, both Montana natives, spent most of their married years in Billings, where they ran Sayer Paint. Ten years ago, they purchased their property and built their home. The more time they spent there, the harder it was for them to leave. That’s when they decided to follow through with their long-held fantasy: to operate a bed and breakfast.
“You talk about it, but you never think it would happen,” Jan said, smiling. “But we had built bathrooms for all of the bedrooms — just in case.”
Already they’ve hosted two weddings and several retreats. They’ve enjoyed guests from across the nation and beyond, but they’re eager for locals to discover the secluded getaway at their own back door.
“I’m really excited for the word to get out,” Jan said.
Their in-home bed and breakfast can easily sleep three couples — more if guests want to bunk in the fold-out couch or futon they’ll find in each room. Counting the cabins, the Sayers have welcomed up to 17 guests at one time.
Jan and Dan encourage their guests to enjoy the privacy of the riverside cabins. They’re close to the river — depending on conditions, the downstream rapids are within earshot — but not too close.
“They’re in the tree line, a little bit back,” Dan said. “We didn’t want to intrude that much.”
“We want people to know we’re working with the river,” Jan added. “We want it to be inviting but not invasive.”
Each cabin has its own deck, barbecue grill, simple cooking facilities and heater/air conditioner. For a more rustic feel, they both have wood-burning stoves and a stack of split wood on the deck just waiting to be burned.
Designed by their son Josh, the cabins are the feature of a 10-page spread in Small Hotels and Rural Hotels, a book authored by a Spanish architect. Dan built the cabins on concrete piers. The added height not only offers an extra safeguard against high water but the advantage of an elevated vantage point.
“It just enhances the view like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
This year, Dan plans to build one more cabin, and he’s hoping to get started on a larger riverside lodge for special events. But he and Jan are cautious against overdeveloping their riverside retreat. Above all, they want to retain the “ma and pa” feel.
“We don’t want it to be big,” Jan said. “We want it homey. We want that family atmosphere.”