River Ranch to celebrate 35th anniversary | SierraSun.com

River Ranch to celebrate 35th anniversary

Courtesy photo/Sierra SunThe River Ranch Lodge has been a popular tourist destination since it opened in 1888 as the Deer Park Inn.

The River Ranch Lodge, the historic restaurant and inn on the banks of the Truckee River, on Thursday will celebrate its 35th anniversary under its current ownership.

The colorful story of the picturesque lodge dates back over 100 years. Originally called the Deer Park Inn, it was completed in 1888 and grew into a fashionable watering spot on the narrow gauge railway that carried visitors along the Truckee River to Lake Tahoe.

The inn was a favored spot and remained popular until tourism came to a stand still during the Great Depression. The Inn was abandoned and became dilapidated until 1950, when the old structure was cleared and a new building was built. During the 1960 Olympic Games at Squaw Valley, numerous foreign diplomats used the lodge as their headquarters.

In 1972, Pete Friedrichsen, Dennis Nevin and Bill Chuba purchased the inn. In the mid-1970s Bill Chuba left the partnership and in 1996 Bric Haley joined the ownership team.

During the lodge’s storied history, the building has withstood avalanches brushing its front doors, the river bursting its banks and droughts drying up the river. Ongoing renovation has helped retain the lodge’s historic character.

General Manager Bric Haley said the challenge was to keep the Old World feel but keep the product updated.

The restructuring has more than doubled the River Ranch capacity from a 50-seat, wooden-booth restaurant of the 1970s by adding the River View Room cantilevered over the river. The family style cafe of that era has evolved into a white tablecloth steak house, an upscale restaurant featuring California.

When visiting at the River Ranch for dinner or a drink on the patio, one can expect to find what’s fashionable. The popular drinks when the bar opened in 1972 were anything with tequila, Jack Daniels or screwdrivers. Wine was red, white or rose.

Now people are drinking martinis, Bloody Mary’s and micro-brews and the wine list can compete with any restaurant in California.

The River Ranch has several employees who have been with the lodge more than 20 years, including Jon L. Weeden, Gordon Wong, Pete Maktenieks and Jack Johnson. Wong started as a waiter in 1984 and has been the restaurant manager for 15 years.

Johnson has been working building maintenance at the River Ranch since 1972. Maktenieks received his name PTW or “Pete the Waiter” for his 18-year career as a River Ranch waiter.

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