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40 Miles from Bend, Escape to House on Metolius

The drive down the soft, red dirt road toward the House on Metolius property is quiet and still, and your regular GPS might struggle to bring you there. But following the step-by-step directions from the general manager, it was easy to find the Tamarack Cabin, a two-bedroom cottage overlooking the Metolius River and one of a handful of lodging options on the property.

A friend and I arrived within about ten minutes of each other on a Friday afternoon, her after a two-hour drive from Eugene and myself after a 45-minute drive north from Bend. We settled into our rooms inside a newly finished rental, the smell of fresh-cut lumber still lingering when we opened the front door.

The family-owned House on Metolius property is rich with history, used as a fishing retreat from the early 1900s, and popular with visitors from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. One such visitor was John Zehntbauer, a founder of Jantzen, the swimwear company known for its iconic diving girl logo. Zehntbauer purchased a portion of the property in 1929 as a summer retreat for his family. Meanwhile, another corner of the property was developed into a lodge, called House on Metolius, operated by Eleanor Bechen, a co-founder of downtown Bend’s Pine Tavern. By the 1970s, Eleanor’s House on Metolius was merged with the rest of the property, and today it all remains with the Lundgren family, descendants of Zehntbauer.

Kept in the family for decades, the Lundgrens opened up the estate to public gatherings and rentals in 2010, offering up their 10,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom, eight-bath “Main House” and four other cabins on the property as rentals, including “Eleanor’s Cabin,” the original House on Metolius structure. The cabins are spread out on a hillside overlooking the winding Metolius River, a big open meadow and groves of willow trees. From most areas of the 200-acre property, the focal point is a snow-capped Mount Jefferson perched above the crystal blue Metolius.

“People will come out here for their peace and quiet all year-round,” said Rachel Gonzalez, general manager for House on Metolius. “It’s a very private experience and it feels like a world away.”

In 2019, the family finished construction on two additional two-bedroom cabins, Tamarack and Manzanita, expanding the lodging portfolio to seven rentals across the estate. The newer cabins offer a modern but traditional feel, with stainless steel counters and open shelving paired with wood-trimmed walls and black and white photos of people enjoying the property over the years. Two window seats are the perfect nooks to cozy up with Pendleton blankets for reading or sipping coffee and looking out at the river.

Together with the main house, the cabins provide ample lodging for a company retreat, family reunion or wedding. They’re also available for nightly bookings via Airbnb or the House on Metolius website. “It’s a place where everybody can be together,” Gonzalez said.

After settling into our space, we headed out for a walk around the property, blazing our own trail across the meadow, toward the west. There are over 100 natural springs on the property, Gonzalez said, with many trickling into the Metolius River. We found the smallest cabin on the land, Power House, a studio apartment above a riverside hydro-electric plant, used to power the property from the 1930s until 1950, when Central Oregon Co-Op brought power to rural parts of the state. The studio, once occupied by the plant operator, was renovated as a guest cabin in the 1990s.

Each cabin on the property has its own kitchen and dining area, and small outdoor grill, ready for guests to cook up whatever they desire. If cooking doesn’t sound relaxing, guests can venture to nearby Black Butte Ranch, Suttle Lodge or Lake Creek Lodge for dining, or pick up a deli sandwich or Mexican food a few miles down the road in Camp Sherman. The Camp Sherman Store is also full of fly-fishing gear, souvenir trinkets and a good selection of snacks and drinks.

After packing up from our one-night getaway at House on Metolius, my friend and I stopped by Camp Sherman, which was buzzing with visitors on an unseasonably warm early spring day. We parked near the store and set out for a quick stroll along the river trail. It turned into a two-mile walk along the shady, flat, path, winding past campsites and family cabins and offering views of ducks, geese and fish flopping in and out of the babbling river—the perfect end to a peaceful weekend getaway on the Metolius River.

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