More than 100 years of history have marked the picturesque riverside landscape recently brought back to life as The Nest on Swan River, one of Bigfork’s newest and oldest hidden gems.
Tucked away on the outskirts of town, The Nest has served many purposes over the decades, including a weigh station, a farm, a teahouse and most recently the home of the popular Coyote Roadhouse.
New owners Mike and Pam Roessmann reopened the property to the public this summer, this time as a venue for special events from weddings to family reunions.
The Roessmanns moved with their three children from Colorado to their home in Bigfork in 1992 and lived across the street from the scenic 5-acre property for over 25 years before making it their own.
No strangers to their neighbors on Three Eagle Lane, however, the Roessmanns stepped across the street many times over the years to enjoy a meal at the Coyote Roadhouse.
Former owner Gary Hastings established the roadhouse on the property in 1986 and continued to serve Bigfork and visitors from across the valley before closing about a decade ago.
The property then sat vacated for over 10 years, according to Mike, a miniature ghost town of sorts, awaiting the right buyer to bring revival.
“We would drive past the ‘for sale’ sign every day pulling in and out of our driveway,” Mike said. “It’s a great piece of property. It really is. It’s got a lot of unique features.”
Accented with mature ponderosa pines and historic cabins dating back to its original use as one of the valley’s first homesteads in 1910, the property’s crowning feature flows by quiet and clear on its northern edge. The Swan River runs between the estate and the parallel wild land with permanently undeveloped floodplains that provide homes for an array of wildlife.
Evening brings new shades of color to the land and to the river where it bends to the west beneath the sunset.
“It’s just relaxed, quiet and that’s, I guess, what the whole aspect of what we’re trying to do here is, you know, embrace what it is that’s here, let it envelope you, be one with nature,” Mike said.
Prior to opening The Nest, Mike worked in construction and Pam in bookkeeping, computers and clerical work before they ventured into the rental business together to slow down their pace of life.
When the Roessmanns got word that Hastings had dropped his asking price for the land across the street last year, they hurried to make their move.
“We always wanted waterfront property somewhere, but it’s pretty unaffordable,” Pam said. “Then when this came down the pipeline and it’s an income-presenting situation, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
The couple pooled their resources, left their semi-retirement and purchased their historic haven in September 2017, christening it with a new name in honor of the birds of prey with which they share the river.
After taking a couple of weeks to explore and evaluate The Nest, they leapt headfirst into renovations on Oct. 1.
Not content to scrap the past to begin anew, they committed to preserving the historical integrity of the land.
“There were people who probably could have come in and started fresh, torn things down,” Pam said, “but that wasn’t our goal. We really appreciate what the previous owner started, and we just wanted to pretty much resurrect it.”
Before the couple could use the long-time restaurant as a vacation rental and events venue, however, they needed to repurpose the cabins, kitchens and the main guesthouse, newly dubbed the inn.
In the midst of those changes, however, they stuck to their goal of keeping as much intact as possible.
Old barn wood taken from shelving removed from one of the older buildings provided the fronting for the new bar in the inn’s common area.
“Basically, if it came out, at some point, it’s going to go back in,” Mike said. “There’s some things that the previous owner wouldn’t recognize at all because it’s been changed so much, but I think what we’re really trying to do…is just maintain the integrity because there’s a long line of people that contributed to what is here.”
Undertaking the repurposing, updating and restoration of a century-old property proved more of a challenge than expected, Mike said.
Over the course of 11 months, they worked an estimated 70 hours a week, and with the help of their friends, family and neighbors, completed about a year and a half’s worth of work in under a year.
Though the couple expects to continue renovating parts of The Nest in phases, they now rent out a few of the finished cabins long-term in the winter and as vacation rentals in the summer.
They also rent out the entire campus and its other amenities for weddings or special events during the summer.
“I’m still having fun with it,” Pam said. “It is challenging physically a lot and mentally a lot, but, again, when we see the people and how happy they are when they come and leave this property, that just really brings a lot of joy.”
Mike and Pam said they tend to check in each of their guests themselves, preferring to take the opportunity to meet people and share what they love about The Nest with others.
Though they said they do not plan to reopen a restaurant themselves, they said they would welcome the opportunity to host guest chefs or a restaurant looking to rent space.
“I think it’s fortunate that this place found us, and I think it’s fortunate that we found this place,” Mike said. “I think we’ve almost been preparing all of our adult working life to manage what it is that is in front of us right now.”
For more information about lodging, scheduling and events at The Nest on Swan River, visit TheNestOnSwanRiver.com or call 406-261-7542.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.