A Nice Summer Outing

Ten days out. The final push to Kalama. Keep moving forward! Until then, here’s a little more inspiration: There was once a mineral hot springs resort in the hills above Kalama called Wild Pigeon Springs Hotel….

Getting to Wild Pigeon Springs Hotel was no easy feat. But once early-20th-century travelers survived 16 miles of a treacherous cliffside road and a wobbly wooden bridge suspended high above the Kalama River, they were rewarded with indoor plumbing, a spacious parlor, stunning views of the river from wide verandas and all the mineral spring water they could drink.

Pigeon Springs was discovered by local hikers at a time when people believed in the medicinal properties of a daily dose of castor oil and the healing powers of mineral water. In 1906, when Portlander Lyman Wynkoop (below) heard about the mineral spring in the hills east of Kalama, he snapped up 80 acres and quickly built a rustic, comfortable hotel on the land.

Wild Pigeon Springs Hotel was a “self-sufficient wilderness retreat,” complete with a limitless supply of fresh butter, milk and eggs, a vegetable-packed garden and a heated bathhouse perched near the ice-cold spring. The cheery advertisements of the day boasted of the hotel’s “fine scenery, the best of spring water, good hunting and the best of trout fishing.” In short, “a nice summer outing.”

The real draw ¬ at least to Wynkoop, if not his customers – was the mineral spring, whose sulphury water was purported to cure just about anything, from diabetes to constipation. Those enchanting ads recommended that folks “try one jug in your office and drive away that tired feeling,” and Wynkoop sold the spring water for a dollar a jug downriver in Portland’s saloons and the Skidmore Drug store (owned by his daughter and son-in-law).

Before becoming an innkeeper and spring water peddler, Lyman Wynkoop had been a talented, in-demand craftsman in Portland, as well as a tinkerer and inventor. He gained a lot of attention in the late 1800s for the decorative tin ceilings he created for the Northern Pacific Railroad’s grand Portland Hotel (where Pioneer Courthouse Square is today), as well as his invention of a water bicycle that he called a Marine Velocipede (which held great promise, but ultimately realized few sales).

At Pigeon Springs, Lyman put his exceptional skills to work on the hotel, such as embossing floral motifs into the tin ceilings and crafting big leather chairs for each of the guest rooms. But he may have been best known at Wild Pigeon Springs Hotel as enthusiastic pancake chef. His “rib-sticking” hotcakes were vital to hotel mornings – and it was said that the stubborn mules on the property would work for pancakes.

Wynkoop’s personality was as big as his business ideas, and a friend described the vigor with which he argued:

One morning he was baking pancakes at the same time that he was arguing a point with an acquaintance standing near. Each time Wynkoop particularly wanted to convince his friend, he banged the turner [spatula] down on the raw pancake, then shook it in the face of the friend, who soon decided to be convinced before he got completely spattered with raw dough.

Lyman Wynkoop ran the hotel with several of his six sons until his death in 1923, and then the Wild Pigeon Springs property remained in the family as a “place of refuge” for his descendants. It truly was a haven when the Great Depression struck and family members who lost everything moved there, surviving by fishing and hunting. One young Wynkoop grandson bragged about his bountiful catch when he encountered a fish and game warden on the riverbank one day, and in the spirit of the time, the warden overlooked the offense, as many Kalama-area officials did, considering that many residents were struggling to eat.

Wild Pigeon Springs Hotel burned in 1942, but the spring still bubbles with the spirit of Lyman Wynkoop on the hill overlooking the Kalama River.

6 Comments

  1. Mark Silliman on April 12, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Great story, thank you! Makes you wonder if the hot springs are still there…😁

  2. Avalon Erickson on April 12, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    SOOOO INTERESTING!! My Husband and I retired up here from Portland!!! We have a new house above Kress Lake!! We Love the area and the people!!! We can’t wait until it opens!!

  3. Jeanine Morris on April 12, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    It seems to me…in a few short yrs….the Mcmenamin boys will have another resort!!
    I mean, why else tell the story;)?!
    Love love love!!

  4. Jeanine Morris on April 12, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Opening when i’m in Hawaii! I can visit on my way home after trip:))

  5. Lacy on April 14, 2018 at 2:00 am

    How cool! As someone who lives close to Kalama and enjoys their small town of antique shops and great fishing, learning this part of their unique history is truely awesome to know and to imagine a booming hotel of the era.

  6. Mike janulewicz on January 9, 2022 at 11:54 am

    Frank griffels of the hockenson Washington area . The same name sake of ( griffels road) now 139 st. Was my neighbor. Frank passed away at 90 . In 1970. Frank was the last of what we’re called. (Horse trader) he sold everything from used nails to saddles. I mean Everything! And he sold wild pigeon springs mineral water. When Frank passed on to a better place to do business his property was left vacant for a few years. It was to much for a 10 year old boy not to snoop. In my snooping I came across a wild pigeon spring jug. I still have that jug. Frank was my friend and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

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