The Izaak Walton Inn in Essex. Beacon file photo

Historic Izaak Walton Inn Sold

LOGE Camps, a Washington-based hospitality company, purchased the 83-year-old lodge near Essex earlier this week

By Justin Franz, Montana Free Press

ESSEX — The Izaak Walton Inn, a beloved old lodge and resort on the southern edge of Glacier National Park, has been sold to a Washington-based hospitality company.

The new owner, LOGE Camps, has properties in Washington, Oregon and California. Its mission is to “find forgotten motels near our favorite towns and trails, and bring them back to life.” Slate Olson, head of marketing for the company, added in an interview on Thursday that the company is especially attracted to properties adjacent to havens for outdoor recreation. By that measure, the Izaak Walton fits the bill. 

Sandwiched between Glacier National Park to the north and the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the south, the Izaak Walton sits on 100 acres in the tiny mountain hamlet of Essex. Besides the three-story lodge, the resort features rental cabins and access to more than 18 miles of Nordic ski trails. Essex is about halfway between West Glacier and East Glacier Park, two key entrances to the park. It is also one of the few year-round lodging facilities near Glacier. 

“We want to make the outdoors accessible to everyone,” Olson said of why the inn and resort was a good fit for the company. 

The property had been listed for sale back in March at $17.9 million. Real estate agent Sean Averill told the Daily Inter Lake it sold for $13.5 million

LOGE (pronounced “Lodge”) was founded in 2016 and has locations in Bend, Oregon, Westport and Leavenworth, Washington, and Mt. Shasta, California, and will soon open two new facilities in South Fork, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico. Along with more traditional hotel rooms, it also offers hostel bunks and campsites at its various locations. Beyond lodging, the company offers gear rentals and facilitates tours and guided experiences. On its website, the company says it is “inspired by the surf, climbing and camping culture of the 70s.” 

While its new owners are inspired by the culture of the 1970s, the Izaak Walton Inn has a history that dates back even further. The inn was constructed in 1939 by the Addison Miller Company in partnership with the Great Northern Railway, a transcontinental railroad that played an outsized role in the development of Glacier National Park. Like the railroad’s other lodges in the park, the Izaak Walton Inn was built in the Tudor Revival style that was meant to evoke the chalets of Europe. While the Izaak Walton Inn — named for a 17th-century sportsman who authored numerous books on fly fishing — was initially meant to primarily house and feed railroad workers, the Great Northern was also reportedly preparing for the opening of a new entrance to Glacier Park near Essex. The onset of World War II, however, put the plans for a new road into the park on ice. But in the decades that followed, the Izaak Walton Inn became a popular destination in its own right, serving as a secluded base camp for those wanting to explore the park. In 1985, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While the inn has changed hands multiple times since the 1950s, its connection to the Great Northern remains strong. Railroad memorabilia lines the walls throughout the lodge, BNSF Railway workers tasked with keeping the tracks clear of snow still occasionally bunk there, and Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger train still stops in Essex twice a day. The inn’s previous owners even gutted old cabooses and a locomotive to be turned into luxury cabins

Olson said LOGE was well aware of the inn’s history and is not planning drastic changes to the property. However, the company does plan to make upgrades. Olson said it’ was’s too early to know exactly what those improvements will be, but that new furniture and room amenities are likely on deck in the coming year. 

“We have a ton of respect for the history of the Izaak Walton Inn,” he said. “We want to create a destination where you feel the history, but you also appreciate the updated touches and amenities.”

Olson said the company looks forward to getting to know the Essex community and partnering with it. He noted that the company donates 1% of top line revenue to local nonprofits that promote outdoor recreation. 

“We want to be seen as [an organization] that contributes to the community,” he said.

This story originally appeared in the Montana Free Press, which can be found online at montanafreepress.org.

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