Grande Ronde River institution has been a steelheaders’ hub since the 1940s

Boggan’s Oasis, home base for anglers fishing Washington’s Grande Ronde River, burned to the ground last Saturday night. Situated at the bottom of the circuitous Rattlesnake Grade along Highway 129, Boggan’s is the only semblance of civilization for miles. It’s been a hub of fishing activity since the ’40s.

Bill and Farrel Vail, both in their 80s, have owned Boggan’s for the last 34 years. “The only reason we realized the fire was going on was, we happen to be avid Gonzaga fans and so we were up later than usual last night watching the game,” Vail told The Spokesman-Review. The couple hasn’t decided yet if they’ll rebuild.

Boggan’s has been integral to the Grande Ronde fishing community, and it has served as a second home to guides like Troy Dettman. “I worked on the first BLM river ranger team in 1988, and also worked with Mark Hatfield [OR senator] on the wild and scenic designation status. And we got it! Each float trip that summer we stopped at Boggan’s for lunch. The anticipation would have me rowing hard from the Oregon border, to get a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.”

At Boggan’s, the milkshakes and pies are almost as legendary as the fishing stories that have passed through it.

Guides such as John Farrar and Dec Hogan frequented Boggan’s over the decades. Anglers in wet waders would sit around tables, cold beer in hand, listening to wild tales and gaining nuggets of wisdom. A football game would be on TV in the back, while the Vails served dinner with a smile. Dettman, who is close with the Vails, added, ”Planning my seasons over the years, I know I would be well taken care of by Bill and Farrel, not only food and lodging, but a feeling of family.”

No one was hurt in the fire. But this is a huge blow to all who descend into the Grande Ronde canyon each fall. Hopefully Boggan’s will be rebuilt, and anglers looking for a hot meal at the end of a long drive in search of steel will be lined up at the door once again.

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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