by Doug Williams
The property where Whistlin’ Jack Lodge is located today began as a substantial portion of Cliffdell and the Davidson Parkway (this ‘parkway’ runs through the center of the unincorporated township of Cliffdell, Washington via the present highway route).
In the 1920s, this private land was used as a retreat center for a consortium of privately owned and operated Yakima Valley banks. The twelve-acre property and individual retreat facility (Wapato Lodge) sold to Charles (Charley) and Mildred Rogers of Sunnyside, Washington. In turn, they built and named the original lodge and four rental cabins. The Rogers family opened for business in the spring of 1931 and a mountain resort along one-quarter mile of the north bank of the Naches River was established. Whistlin’ Jack Lodge sold to O.E. Erickson, owner of the Cabana Lodge in Yakima, Washington, after World War II and “O.E.” operated (with managers) until, my parents, William (Bill) B. and Helen I. (Knapp) Williams purchased the business in February, 1957.
I used the term ‘my parents’ when actually it was “our” parents. There were two brothers older than me – the eldest, Bill (22 years old), was finishing his commitment to the United States Army and engaged to marry Laurel Brown of Yakima, Washington. My middle brother (and boyhood hero) Keith would graduate from Yakima High School (A.C. Davis) later that spring and continue his education at Central Washington College, in Ellensburg, Washington.
By 1957, Whistlin’ Jack Lodge was struggling mightily. The small Inn-like resort’s requirements were two-fold; Copious amounts of TLC and as well, dedication (to that task) would be necessary. Both would require grit and tenacity, hinged to a clear vision of which, my Mom and Dad were perfectly suited to administer. Their goals were simple. Maintain and continue to build Whistlin’ Jack Lodge through the strengths God provided them for such an adventure. Honesty and integrity were the principle strengths my parents brought to Washington from Southern Iowa twenty-six years earlier. There was also one more item…imagination. Combined, these three ingredients set the foundation for our family’s success that continues today.
Whistlin' Fifty - read an article about the history of the Williams' family and Whistlin' Jack Lodge
The original lodge, where the large stone fireplace today still warms the traveler in winter and gives an atmosphere of pioneering days, was built well over one-half century ago. Originally, the lodge was a rest stop and haven for the weary traveler who had just spent nearly two days on rough winding roads from Yakima to frequent Whistlin' Jack Lodge - now just a 35-minute drive.
WJL has been honored to receive three annual awards in the "Best of the Valley" competition put on each year by the Yakima Valley Business Times. The awards are for:
- Best Place to Propose
- Best Date Restaurant
- Best Sunday Brunch
Where Whistlin' Jack Lodge gets its name
The name "Whistlin' Jack" refers to the large hoary marmot inhabiting the rocky areas of the Cascade Mountains near Chinook Pass. These creatures are very family oriented, and are vegetarians, depending solely on roots and berries for their diet. The marmot was named Whistlin' Jack because of its high-pitched whistle heard at dawn and sunset. The whistle signified a warning to other marmots in the areas of impending danger from eagles, their natural enemies. As the years passed, the marmot's whistle transcended down to the logging camps, and was heard on the lips of a lumberjack. Legend or fact, the lodge was named Whistlin' Jack, and today still remains the recipient of that ancient lore.
Whistlin' Jack Lodge is located on the banks of the Naches River (Nah-Cheez) The river runs through the deep forests past Whistlin' Jack Lodge in an idyllic setting. Years ago, old timers say Yakama Indians camped on the edge of the Naches fishing and resting. It was a place of spiritual refreshing - as it is today for weary city dwellers and tourists looking for a place on the Naches to rest. Naches (Nah-cheez) means "plenty of water", rightly describing the river that flows from the Cascades to the fertile Yakima Valley, giving life to the rich agricultural region.
A Member of the Community
Whistlin' Jack Lodge is an active member of many civic and business organizations, including: Better Business Bureau, Yakima Visitor & Convention Bureau, Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce, Naches Chamber of Commerce, Chinook Scenic Byway Executive Board member, Washington Restaurant Association, Washington State Hotel and Lodging Association, National Restaurant Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Association of Washington Business and Washington State Snowmobile Association (WSSA), We support many organizations -Yakima Elks Golf and Country Club - BPOE # 318, Pheasants Forever, Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the National Rifle Association.