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A River Runs By It

At Rivers Bend Lodge near Yellowstone National Park, owner Jeff Reed, joined by actress Josie Bissett, achieves a dream of sustainable luxury



Audrey Hall

Created by Montana native-come-home Jeff Reed, with the smart and style-conscious advice of actress and author Josie Bissett, his best friend and companion of four years, the sustainably run lodge enables guests to glory in their surroundings without depleting natural resources or otherwise leaving human footprints behind. 

MOUNTAIN LIVING: How did Rivers Bend Lodge come about?
Jeff Reed:
When I was a kid, my parents started a bed and breakfast in the Paradise Valley, and we happened to be about two miles upstream from the lodge. One day, when I was in the fifth grade, I was fly-fishing and I floated on a raft by the main house and thought, ‘Wow, I’ll never be able to own a place like that.’

Fast-forward to 2004, when I decided I wanted a place back in Montana as a retreat from Seattle, where I’d built my own international computer company. I found out from my dad that the owners were thinking of moving, and I made an unsolicited offer on the property. I sat on it for two years, and then began a three-year construction plan for remodeling its three houses.

ML: What was your vision behind that plan?
JR: When I go out into the wilderness, I get my soul back. I’d raised my sons—Jordan, who’s 16, and Harrison, 13—in the city, and I see how Montana opens their souls, too. I wanted an eco-friendly place where I could hang out, meet new people, entertain them, teach them how to fly-fish or hunt, and give them that wilderness experience. And what a great way to retire later on!

JOSIE BISSETT: For me and my children—Mason, who is 11 years old, and Maya, who’s 8—it’s a perfect place where we can go with Jeff and his sons to experience the four seasons and make family memories together, surrounded by nature.

ML: Throughout the remodeling of Rivers Bend Lodge, you’ve made sustainability a priority. What do you consider the highlights of what you’ve achieved?
JR: If you spend the money on insulation and do it right, you can have a huge impact on sustainability. The buildings have a lot of passive cooling and heating, with natural ventilation, large windows, and wide awnings for shade. The subfloor electrical heating is extremely efficient, and there’s LED lighting and ultra-efficient appliances. Plus we used nontoxic paint. And the flooring and timbers are all reclaimed wood. We’ve got a greenhouse where we grow some of our food. Eventually, I want to generate most of my electrical power, along with hydrogen to fuel a car.

When I’m in my 50s, I want the place to be completely self-sustaining, and I want to spend a year only eating what comes off the property. Mind you, I’ll probably order some wine.

JB: Those sustainability messages make great lessons for our children, too. I love the fact that there is so much thought behind what Jeff has created, that everything at the lodge is not just amazing but also has meaning. 

ML: It’s apparent that you never sacrificed style to sustainability. How did you also create such attractive, comfortable surroundings?
JR: The most important message here is that you can achieve sustainable design without anybody noticing.

JB: The whole place is really an expression of Jeff’s heart and soul.

JR: But Josie gave me valuable input on all the details. I would show her options, like for the hardwood floors, and her opinion always turned out to be the best choice. Josie’s touch is most apparent in the kitchen, where she made a lot of the decisions. She told me that we needed to add a big window over the sink, so you could look at the view while doing dishes or cleaning up. That made a huge difference.

JB: The food at the lodge is very important to me. So much of the experience there is about those moments you share around the dinner table. 

ML: With such important moments in mind, how would you both sum up what Rivers Bend Lodge offers?
JB: I grew up in more of a city background with houses around me, not mountains and all this space. So aside from the lodge being both stunning and homey, I find the scenery so spectacular. Sometimes, when I open the windows in the morning it’s like looking at a painting!

JR: The three times a year or so we’re at the lodge just isn’t enough for us. We built a classy place and did things right. Yellowstone National Park is our playground, our backyard. And where else could you go out your back door with a glass of wine, walk 20 feet, and cast for rising trout?

MAKING THE MOST OF MONTANA

Rivers Bend Lodge can welcome up to 22 overnight guests at a time among the main lodge, the Trout House, and the Eagle’s Nest House. Each can be rented separately and includes its own kitchen, private baths for each bedroom, satellite TV, and wireless Internet. The retreat’s size, scope and location make it ideal for a wide range of activities:
FLY-FISHING  Cast for trout along the adjacent Yellowstone River, in two private stocked ponds, or on guided tours to other nearby waters.
HUNTING  The lodge can arrange self-guided hunting for whitetail deer or expert guided outings for partridges, pheasants or grouse.
TOURING  Visit Yellowstone on your own or with a guide. Shop, dine or visit galleries and museums in historic Livingston, Bozeman and Gardiner, or have a gourmet meal, casual bite or drinks in nearby Chico.
OTHER ACTIVITIES AND AMENITIES  Depending on the season and your interests, enjoy hiking, float trips, river rafting, birding, hiking, horseback pack trips, mountain
biking, alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, dog-sled treks and on-site massage.
SPECIAL EVENTS  The meeting room and other facilities can comfortably handle up to 32 attendees and offers catering, personal chef and concierge services.

For prices and further information, visit riversbendlodge.com.

ARCHITECTURE Jerry Smania, J L Smania Architects, Bozeman, MT, 406-522-0711 BUILDER Steve Sirois, CST Consultants LLC, Emigrant, MT, 406-333-4742, mtcstllc.com INTERIOR DESIGN Darcy LaBeau and Angie Okragly, My Montana Interior Design

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