Meet Lance and Shannon Britt, owners of the Skamokawa Resort and long-time business partners of
CRK, who will become its new owners on January 1, 2025.
How long has your family owned and operated the Skamokawa Resort, and what drew you to the area?
For seven years, we traveled from our former home in the Sacremento area to vacation with family who purchased and remodeled the property in 2011. We decided to move in and take over management in 2013. We enjoy being close to the coast and the small town vibe that is completely different. It’s neat to live in a town without a stop light. I (Shannon) remember in the early days of vacationing, driving to the beach and not realizing the town is here. Of course, now we work to make sure that people don’t miss it! There are great local businesses and destinations that make for a beautiful and laid back vacation spot.
Prior to the remodel, it was the site of a general store and hotel. We now operate a grocery store, conference space, a hotel with 8 rooms, and a separate building with 3 larger vacation rentals that can sleep between 2-10 people, a post-office, and a historic home called the Lott house. People who grew up in the Lott house have visited over the years to share wonderful stories and photos. Our family lived there for several years and enjoyed it very much. We are now in the process of remodeling the home to become part of our family business – the new headquarters of Columbia River Kayaking.
What is unique or special about the Resort property?
The property boasts one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the county and is the historic town center. It’s a peaceful place where you can sit and relax and escape everything else while having easy access to the water, beach and local restaurants and businesses like the Duck Inn or Friends of Skamokawa/River Interpretive Center.
Many locals still refer to the place as the town center, and gravitate here for convenience items and to pick up mail at the post office. We get to hear all kinds of fun stories from people who have memories here, like locals who used to roller skate in the space that is now the upstairs part of the hotel, or who remember as kids buying the same vintage sodas we still sell here before going on a boat ride. Historically, there was an award-winning dairy located on the property. Visitors can enjoy historic photos in the store, and more photos and historical artifacts, including local art, on display at the River of Life Interpretive Center.
What makes the Resort a great place to stay for travelers, and specifically kayakers?
The Resort is right on the water so it is very convenient to launch and land from the dock. You can kayak or boat to stop at the dock and get supplies at the on-site grocery store, or walk a little ways up to the Duck Inn for a meal.
As the historic town center, there’s a nostalgic feel to this place. Travelers have told us over the years that they feel like they are going back in time. It’s slow paced and friendly. There’s nothing busy about being in Skamokawa. There aren’t many places one can go and park for a weekend where you can sit and watch nature and ships go by from a comfortable and quiet room. There’s a lot to see in nature here, especially birds, like eagles and osprey. Not everyone grows up near large bodies of water, so seeing the huge cargo ships go by is an amazing experience.
How long have you worked with Columbia River Kayaking?
We are heading into our 9th season providing lodging and dock and conference room amenities for Road Scholar programs. The kayak center operated from 1998 to 2013 out of what is now the conference room. Columbia River Kayaking moved operations to a neighboring location at the Viewpoint Landing, and the conference room became the site for evening activities with Road Scholar clients. It’s neat to be coming full-circle on that 10-year earmark, with CRK operations coming back to the Resort.
We also host kayakers who come to the area for the public programs and classes offered by CRK, and find a significant number are former Road Scholar clients who bring their families and friends to experience the area. We feel really good about families who pick us year over year for their family vacations. That’s when you know you’re doing something right because they could go anywhere.
As long-time business partners of CRK who have paddled with them on public tours, we appreciate the incredible difference it makes to have access to an experienced guide to take full advantage of the area, where you wouldn’t be as comfortable or knowledgeable on your own. Several summers ago, we didn’t have the confidence to rent kayaks and take off with our family down the Columbia River. Instead, we chose to go out with our kids in double kayaks on a guided tour. We felt safe, comfortable and learned about everything we were seeing, all the flora and fauna, and history of the shoreline.
Every year more and more people come here to explore this dynamic tidal estuary even during the earliest and latest parts of the season. It’s amazing to see the range of people who visit and enjoy themselves out on the water making core memories with CRK while having the convenience and comforts of home at the Resort.
What are your plans for stepping in as the new owners of Columbia River Kayaking in 2025?
We are excited about this next adventure, and are taking a phased team approach. This year we will begin transitioning the business to the Resort with the new center of operations in the historic Lott home. We are especially excited about getting to know more of the crew. Up until now, we have primarily worked with the existing CRK owners and intend to keep on local talent.
CRK’s customers are our customers too, so we understand the importance of public tour options and having experienced local guides. We will run a select number of CRK public tour options in 2024 with the help of CRK owner and guide, Levi Helms, and existing crew members, as part of our transition to full-time ownership. The 2024 public tours will be bookable in March on the CRK website. Stay tuned! For the 2025 season, we expect to have a full line-up of public tours and class offerings. Kyleen Austin will transition to the role of lead coach for class offerings and to assist in training new guides.
Road Scholar programs will continue this year and into the future. We plan to participate in several of the programs this year to dive deeper into the natural history and storytelling aspects of the tours. In the long-term, we are interested in offering business team building and retreat packages that include all of the great amenities on-site at the Resort while partnering with more local businesses to expand on the Road Scholar philosophy.
Importantly, Columbia River Kayaking will remain an intact business. We are not going to reinvent the wheel. The current owners have been doing this work since the late 1990’s. The business is streamlined and now it’s about keeping the legacy alive.