(First published in the September 19, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Dan and Margaret Higginbotham have created a solar-powered B&B on the Eau Claire River
Margaret and Dan Higginbotham opened Inn at the River in July, along the Eau Claire River near Camp Sturtevant.
Looking out the window of a cozy sun room, over a wood-fired stove, the Eau Claire river rages following a storm. It’s usually more calm, but even the fast moving current this day doesn’t stop a blue heron from making a stop.
This is the most popular room of Inn at the River, a new bed and breakfast off Northwestern Avenue along the Eau Claire River near Wausau. Despite being on the edge of city limits, this cozy bed and breakfast gives you the sense of being deep in the forest. The fact that you enter under the YMCA’s Camp Sturtevant gate contributes to that feeling, as well as the 20 private acres.
That’s made the Inn, opened in July, popular with their guests, say owners Dan and Margaret Higginbotham. The 4,000-square foot house manages to seem fancy and elegant, yet cozy and fun. The inn has three rooms, including a birch room in which the bed frame is built from white birch.
The Higginbothams didn’t have a bed and breakfast in mind for the property initially, Margaret says. They owned the land for eight years, but didn’t have road access to it. After working out easements with the YMCA, and realizing there might be potential customers looking for luxurious accommodations in a rustic scenery, they built their home with a bed and breakfast on the property.
The couple have had more than 30 reservations since opening in July, Margaret says, from people all over the Midwest. They’re going for a different demographic than, say, downtown’s Stewart Inn, which the couple considered buying at one point. Whereas the Stewart Inn is a good bet for travelers looking to stay within walking distance of entertainment and dining, Inn at the River provides an outdoors experience. The Higginbothams keep kayaks for guests to use, and will drop off their customers upstream so they can paddle back to the inn. They also keep bicycles and will have snowshoes in the winter.
Inn at the River has common rooms where guests can hang out, including one with a pool table. All rooms have a view of the river, a relaxing selling point.
Impressively, they both work full time. Dan owned a land surveying business for 30 years, and has worked at PGA for the last six. Margaret is a nurse, who works with adults with disabilities and others stay in their homes. Margaret says they can operate the B&B work by serving a big breakfast only on weekends, with a continental style breakfast and fresh baked goods served during the week.
The experience is a green one too. Inn at the River is powered largely by 22 solar panels and geothermal heating-cooling. Their July electricity bill was only $42, Dan says. The inn will be a featured open house during the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Solar Tour on Oct. 5, 10 am-4 pm. See MidwestRenew.org under Upcoming Events.
Inn at the River is located at 2625 Northwestern Ave., Wausau. Find details on their Facebook page and booking sites. 715-449-2091.