A Subtle Lake Kingdom

New and old Oregon meet at Suttle Lodge and Boathouse

How do you catch an Instagram influencer? Simple. Take the formerly rustic and somewhat rundown Lodge at Suttle Lake, located near Sisters just west of Black Butte Ranch, and sell it to A&R Development, who then hands over management to The Mighty Union, the same people behind the hip Portland-based hotel chain The Ace Hotel. 

Then you have to clean it up. Slap a fresh coat of central Oregon chic mixed with urban sensibility on the property, while adopting the iconography of a fading, old Oregon way of life to target the new Oregon lifestyle seeker. That’s what happened to the Lodge at Suttle Lake, which is now the infinitely hashtag-worthy Suttle Lodge & Boathouse.

A few lodges have occupied on the property since the 1920s. They all burned down. The former Lodge at Suttle Lake opened in 2005 and sold in 2015. 

As it is now, the place is charming as hell, with décor and aesthetic just this side of precious, attentive service, top-notch amenities and an eye for detail that makes the fussy yet folksy world of Wes Anderson movies feel downright hacky.  

When the weather warms up, The Suttle Lodge offers the Big Lawn concert series. I’m there, as a guest of the lodge, on the first day of summer to see Portland musicians Jacob Miller and Joshua Thomas. Both play quiet, well-crafted acoustic pop songs and covers in the vein of Jackson Browne and James Taylor, Miller’s background in early 20th-century pop adding occasional elements of ragtime and pre-war jazz. 

Although it’s the first day of summer, the chilly mountain wind refuses to settle down, so the show moves inside the lobby. 

“I love this space,” Miller tells me before his set. Miller and Thomas arrived at Suttle Lake the previous day after a 16-hour drive from Joshua Tree, California, where they had just performed. 

Miller is on the road promoting his debut album, This New Home. This is his second time playing a show on Suttle Lake’s Big Lawn, and, last winter, he had a two-week artist residency at the lodge. 

“I’m just happy to be here,” he says.

The lobby soon fills up with an attentive and warm audience, mostly those staying in the lodge, nearby cabins or tent camping. Some full-time residents, looking for a little shot of nightlife, are here, too. 

Food and drinks buzzed out from The Skip, the lobby’s cocktail lounge, and the room maintained a familial low murmur, dogs and children exploring the space, while a larger group played games in the back. None of it detracted from the overall listening experience.

“We’ve grown our live music programming to be an integral part of the culture at The Suttle Lodge,” Rebekah Bellingham, who handles the lodge’s music programming, tells me in an email before my visit. “This amenity adds to the feeling of community and camaraderie that we’ve built on the lake.”

During winter, music moves indoors for ticketed shows, which are still open to the public. 

Other notable shows on the Big Lawn this summer include Portland indie rockers Loch Lomond, July 19; the classic outlaw country of Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, July 26; and folk singer Alela Diane, Aug. 16. 

Besides music, Suttle Lodge has plenty of other things to do, including kayaking, mountain biking and canoeing (rentals available) or just hiking around the lake.

Of course there’s food, as well. You can eat at the Boathouse, located pretty much right on the water, serving a mountain version of clam chowder with parsnips and aromatic local herbs. Get it with smoked fish, crunch in some of the Ritz crackers served in lieu of oyster crackers, and be sure to add a little of the house made “hoss” sauce.

The Suttle Lodge and Boathouse is located at 13300 Highway 20, Sisters. For more information, visit TheSuttleLodge.com.