Imnaha doesn’t get the press that Wallowa Lake does. It’s more of a hidden gem of Wallowa County. But that doesn’t matter to Aspen Smith, co-owner with husband, Tyler Smith, of the refurbished Imnaha Motel 3 and RV park. She’d like locals and others to take some time to explore one of Wallowa County’s most uniquely beautiful areas.
Smith moved here several years ago after meeting her husband as she studied agriculture production at Blue Mountain Community College.
The couple wasn’t looking to buy a hotel. They run cows about eight miles up the Imnaha River, and Tyler Smith also sprays weeds for a local company while, until their new adventure, his wife worked at the Imnaha Tavern. “I never expected to own a hotel, but somehow it got put in our path. We saw this as a really neat place to experience Imnaha — it’s a beautiful piece of property.”
The couple had no prior motel management experience except for Aspen Smith’s work cleaning cabins at Wallowa Lake. However, the property owners, Dave and Sally Tanzey were easy to work with, so the Smiths bought the property.
“We thought we could make a go of it, and plus, I get to have my kids with me too,” Smith said. “We’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants.”
The two bought the property on May 9 of last year and kept the RV Park open while putting their own touch on the rooms, which are ready to rent. The motel offers three rooms, each at $70 per night or $10 extra with pets. The RV park has four spaces with full hookups for $20 although the couple hope to have an even dozen by the end of the year. Dry tent camping is $10 per night and a wall tent for hunters is also a future possibility.
“I want to make it affordable for families — just to go camping and be outdoors,” Smith said. “When we bought this, I wanted to give this amazing experience to show how beautiful Imnaha is.”
The business doesn’t offer meals, but in conjunction with the Imnaha Tavern, the hotel will offer four sack lunches with a four-day stay. Other similar collaborations with the tavern may also be a possibility. Furthermore, the couple is building a shade pavilion with a patio and barbecue along with a sitting area and picnic tables. Showers and public bathrooms for non-hotel guests are planned for the future. Also, parking area is being developed for guests with ATVs or other recreational vehicles.
“From here, they can go to Hat Point or Dug Bar — we’re a really good central location,” she said.
Although the rooms are available for rent, the couple is still working on sanding and painting part of the outside of the building. Smith said the goal with the property is to have a very clean, accessible place with nice amenities. She gave the Wallowa County Chieftain a tour through the rooms, which are very clean, tastefully decorated and elegant in their simplicity.
Although the couple gets plenty of business from hunters who live on the west side of the state, they’d like locals to come and explore the wonders of Imnaha. Parents can bring their children to a place where cell phones and tablets are virtually useless, but they can fish off the bridge in town, explore or play horse shoes in the pit slated for this summer.
“Life is simple here,” she said. “I’d like to advertise this with local people as a super simple getaway. You’re 45 minutes away, you’re out of cell phone service and internet.” She said the couple considered the internet option but decided against it for the moment.
“We want it to be like, ‘Man, where am I?’ but then you get lost and say, ‘This is great — just where I need to be.’”
The business is located at 406 Motel Lane, The third driveway on the right after passing the Imnaha Tavern toward Hat Point.