(If you wish to enlarge details of any of the photos, click on them to be taken to their pages on Flickr.)
I recently had the pleasure of staying in a charming, 100-year-old cabin on historic U.S. Route 99 (decommissioned in the 1960s) in Dunsmuir, California. The cabin is part of the Cave Springs Resort on a cliff above the Sacramento River—which in those parts is a small, rapidly flowing river with plenty of whitewater.
My cabin, #5.
I found the key a bit challenging at first.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, Dunsmuir was a railroad town. Having pored over the 1930 census records for the area, it appears that more than half of the people employed were working in the railroad industry. Following that were hotel and restaurant workers—presumably serving the railroad travelers.
Dunsmuir, Railroad Town
But foreseeing the future of travel, Dewitt Clinton “Clint” Brown and his wife, Ida May, started the resort as an auto camp in 1923, soon to be named Brown’s Motor Lodge. Each of the 15 historic cabins has a car port built into it, although none of the guests were parked under the narrow ports when I was there.
Interior, Cabin 5
Besides being familiarly called Clint, Mr. Brown was also known as the “The Trout Fish King.” He no doubt enjoyed plenty of fishing given the lodge’s location on the river before he passed away at the age of 58 in 1933. After that, Ida May Brown carried on running the lodge with the help of her sister, Maude Young. After Ida May died in 1944 (California Death Index) or 1945 (her gravestone), the establishment was sold (in 1946) to two couples from Walnut Creek: Bob and Lois Dewey, and John and Joalice Richards, with the Deweys buying out the Richards a few years later.
Kitchen, Cabin 5
The new owners changed the name to Cave Springs Resort. Where are the cave and the springs? Just down below the cliff at the edge of the Sacramento River. Unfortunately, I didn’t go down there when I stayed—but you can see a video shot by another guest of what they are like.
The springs pump out naturally carbonated mineral water, and that water used to be pumped up to a fountain in front of a 14-seat restaurant on the property. I imagine the fountain was constructed in much the same fashion as the remnants of a small bench and planter that stand next to the old highway today.
Small bench/planter out front.
Cave Springs Resort remained in the Dewey family until just last year, when Bob and Lois’s son Louie Dewey sold the property to a real estate investor with big plans to modernize the property. That means this is the last summer you can rent any of the 100-year-old cabins. I wanted to stay in the already refurbished motel portion of the property to take advantage of the air conditioning and television. But when I found out this was the last chance to stay in the historic cabins, I knew that is what I had to do.
It was worth it. They are quite charming, and fortunately, it wasn’t too hot while I was there. But I can see why they will be going away. Still, it would be nice if the new owner kept one of the fifteen just to preserve a bit of history. And I’m disappointed to see that the old neon sign is gone. I happened to photograph it at night 15 years ago.
Despite the lack of amenities, and the rather troubling electrical wiring, I enjoyed my stay in cabin #5 at the Cave Springs Resort. And I didn’t even use the swimming pool, bocce ball court, fire pit, or charcoal grill (one for each cabin). It is wonderfully situated for what I was there for—visiting many waterfalls. In fact, people going to Mossbrae Falls (trespassing on Union Pacific property on their way) park right in front of Cave Springs.
Bathroom Light Switch
Refrigerator on Back Porch
Dubious Wiring for Outdoor Refrigerator
Interview with original owner on YouTube.
Well worth checking out for the recollections of growing up at the resort.
Article in Record Searchlight.
Includes a photograph of Bob and Lois Dewey.
Free genealogical research site.
California Digital Newspaper Collection
Dunsmuir News articles won't be available in full until 2024, but I was able to pick up enough information from snippets available now to fill in the gaps in the story.