Wilderness Park History

Wilderness Park
By: Ruhl and Jeanne Boe

The Beginning…

It was told to me that in the early 1930s a man by the name of Ziegler won the land in a poker game in St. Paul.  The land included what is now Dream Island and Wilderness Park.

In 1931 a resort, which became North Shore Resort, was started.  The material for the first building was delivered by horse and sled across Little Pine from County Road 3 to the property.  The first building was what is now the Recreation Hall and was their living quarters and later an ice storage house.  I don’t know the order of construction but half of what is now the house and 10 cabins were built. I was told that five of the cabins were sold and moved to make room for trailers in 1958.  The main part of the garage was the horse barn.

The Ziegler’s lived there with three daughters and ran the resort.  The only access to the resort was a trail along Daggett Brook.  Guests that stayed at the resort were met at the Fifty Lakes store and post office and were transported to the resort.

Sometime in the early fifties, the City of Crosslake constructed Wilderness Trail; it runs from the Daggett Pine Road all the way to the main home.  The road was 33 feet wide and gravel.  The road was maintained some by the city and mostly by the owner of Wilderness Park.  (I believe the old road grader is still on the property.)

Robert Donald Ziegler died on August 13, 1962 while grading the road.  Mercedes Ziegler, wife of Robert Ziegler, ran the resort with the help of daughter and son in-law until 1969 when it was sold to Robert A. Nelson and Lillian Nelson.  The portion of Dream Island belonging to Wilderness Park was sold to Robert E. Zelge in March 1968. 

The second owner of North Shore Resort (Wilderness) Robert and Lillian Nelson were from Prior Lake, Minnesota. 

Bob was a wholesale electric supply salesman and Lil was a homemaker.  Lil ran the resort and Bob worked in the Twin Cities and came up on weekends to help.  They purchased the resort in March of 1969 and changed the name of the resort to Wilderness Resort and Campground.

In the nine years that they owned the resort, they built an office onto the house and a deck.  They also expanded the camping sites.  Sites 20, 21, 22, beach lots 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40 were added with full hookups.  Total full hookups to 87.  Area 75 through 85, 110 through 117 and 103 through 109 were tent sites and some had electric power.   Bob added an addition to the garage which now had become the Maintenance Shop.  A new fish cleaning building was built.  They charged $350 per year to park your trailer for the season.  The cabin rent was $250 per week.

Lillian loved the resort.  Bob loved his job in the city.  They sold the resort in 1977 and built a new home about a fourth of a mile from the resort on the south side of Wilderness Trail and retired.

The third and last owners of Wilderness Resort and Campground were Ruhl and Jeanne Boe.

…I was fishing on our dock at our resort on Island Lake/WC when my Brother-in-law, Doug, came by and asked me if I wanted to purchase a campground with him as a partner.  I asked him where it was and he said on Little Pine on the Chain.  I said, I was born and raised here and I have never heard of Wilderness Resort.  Doug and my sister had camped at Wilderness many times.  One time while camping he told Bob Nelson that if they ever wanted to sell, please let him know – and they did.  After much looking and talking about the resort, Doug decided he didn’t want to move his young family from the city where he had a very good job.  Now the decision was Jeanne’s and mine, and we ended up with two resorts.  For three years we owned two resorts.

I closed my construction business in the Twin Cities, and we moved to Wilderness in the spring of 1978.  Although I had lived on a resort when I was young and already owned a resort, Wilderness was different because of its size and it being also a campground.

The first year was a real wake-up for us.  Memorial weekend we had R.V. units lined up all the way to where the tennis courts are now waiting to register.  Some how, we got through that summer with the help of our younger son, Wayde, who was in college at the time.  When October 1 came, the park was closed and the water turned off and all our customers were gone.  We were glad…and we were sad.  We had met so many great people and a few bad ones.

After closing, it was now – now what?  We did what we could on the grounds while the weather was good – that would be until about November 1 and then it was time for me to go hunting. We always spent Christmas at Wilderness with family and what fun we had.  After the New Year, we would get ready for traveling.

The first year we traveled the west in our new motor home, visiting friends and family.  When staying in campgrounds for two months, we learned a lot.  We found out that we needed to do a lot of upgrading to make Wilderness a “five star.”  We never had a “five star” rating but were “four star.”

The first addition was a swimming pool.  It was built in 1980.  The next was filling a large gravel pit approximately 12 feet deep and 30 feet in diameter just west of where the tennis courts are now.  It took 135 loads of dirt in my six yard dump truck to fill it.  What an improvement!  We found out that our shower room was not big enough, so we replaced it with the present one.  One of our seasonal guests, Runge, (who was on strike in the Twin Cities) he and his sons and I built the building.  It was built to also be a storm shelter, with reinforced 12” concrete walls.

In about 1983, after the season was over, I started to upgrade the sewer systems and to add more full hookup sites.  I had all my own equipment and along with the hired help, we worked until freeze-up.  This went on until all nonconforming systems were completed.

When we purchased Wilderness, there was nothing but woods on the north side of the road.  Boat trailers were parked on the side of the road or in the woods or wherever room could be found.  This did not look good, so we cleared an area back off the road – back of where 140 is now.  Later on we cleared and created the large area where the garages are.  Some of the logs from the clearing were sawed into lumber and used for building the addition on the Recreation Hall, retaining walls and the new out-house which was required by the Health Department.

Lots (or sites) 118-141 were cleared the middle of 1980 for campsites.  They had water and electricity and later sewers were installed.  Land was cleared and tennis courts were built in 1987.  The now maintenance building was once our shower and laundry room, so you can see why we built a new one.

This covers most of the upgrading we did in the first ten years of our ownership.  All this work was done after we closed or early spring, as we had no time during the summer.  We hired help in the spring for raking and clean-up and one full-time person and cabin cleaning people in the summer.  It kept us very busy with the store, 19 boats and pontoon rentals, gas, bait for sale and cleaning the rental sites.  By closing time, we were ready for time out.

Wilderness Resort and Campground was good to us.  We enjoyed meeting all the people and the time we had to do what we wanted.  We traveled a lot and have been to every state in the USA and many of them several times.  We have been to all Providences in Canada with the exception of Newfoundland.  I can’t believe we spent two months the Summer of 1994 in Alaska in our RV along with our friends in their RV.  We spent some winters out of the country.

In the winter of 1987, we started to think of total retirement and selling Wilderness Resort and Wilderness R. V. Sales in Crosslake.  Our options were to sell as a resort, remove trailers and sell lots or sell as an association.  After much consulting with attorneys and development firms, we decided on the Association.  This took much time to get all the paper work done and ready to sell.   One of the things we needed to do was to rearrange the sites to accommodate the different homes that could be on that site and still be legal.

Well, you know the rest of the story.  It was very successful for the Boe’s, and we enjoyed doing it and we see how well it turned out.  We will always have those memories of the park and the people we served.


First, get ready to open.  When our seasonal people started coming, many of the people asked when Bob and Betsy are coming.  We did not know them only that they were from Florida and had rented site 35 for the season.  Well they were our most beloved people in the park.  When they could no longer pull their Air Stream from Florida to here, they stayed in our small cabin on the river and worked for us in the store and Bob cut the grass.  We visited them almost every winter until they passed on.

Parties – Our first in the fall of 1978 – we decided to have a pig roast in appreciation of our guests.  We rented a spit and bought a pig from a local farmer.  We arranged to have some of our guests watch the cooking throughout the night, starting about 8:00 p.m.  At 11:00 p.m. my son woke me to say the pig was not turning, and we had to turn it by hand.  Good thing we had a keg of beer as it was hard work. Next morning a pink pig was black.  Bob Beckwith, a meat cutter by trade, saved the day by skinning it.  Good job Bob!

After the pig roast, we decided to do turkeys.  A boyhood friend of mine, by the name of Bob Allen, and his wife owned a turkey farm just south of Crosslake.  Bob, his wife, Buzz (from the park) and myself killed, dressed and cleaned 24 turkeys then injected them with a secret fluid.  The next day we cooked them on a spit 24 feet long – provided by the Turkey Growers Association and fueled with charcoal.  The turkeys turned out so good we did this same thing for eight years only we bought the turkeys all dressed from Bob.  Before the dinner, we played games and gave prizes.  After dinner we had a dance with a band or karaoke.  We also served beer or you could bring your own drinks.  Next day…aspirin!!!

There are so many stories.   I could go on and on.  (Ask me some time.)

In Memory

Elsie Soderlund – Elsie was with us on Lot 8 until she was 94 years old.

Bob and Betsy Dedolph – Lot 35 and Cabin on the river when they worked for us.

Lief Nelvin – sang for the Sons of Norway and around the campfires.  Great voice!

Dave Jorvig – loved to sing with Lief around the campfires.  Also a great voice!

Ernie Andersen – the crappie fisherman

Ron Andersen

Bob Beckwith – was our head meat carver at the parties.

Buzz Haug – good friend.  Buzz and his wife, Carmen, traveled with us on many trips.

Fred Reese

Harold and Ardena Corniea

Lyle and Carol Bauernfiend

Dariel Thurston

Ruth Mary Mertez

Dick Bennett

Dwayne Piehl

Randy Makousky – our son in-law – well known around the campfires and loved to help us and be part of Wilderness