Bearskin Lodge History
A Landmark on the Historic Gunflint Trail Since 1925
Bearskin Lodge dates back to the 1920’s when Harley Jackson, a local mail carrier, established it as “Camp Jackson.” The Cook County News Herald reported in May, 1925, that “Harley Jackson is building a place on East Bearskin Lake and will have boats and canoes for rent to pleasure seekers and fishermen.” Guests originally stayed in tents, but eventually Mr. Jackson built a lodge at the far west end of the lake.
Sometime in the 1930’s A.J.Allen and his wife bought the lodge, and began calling it “Allen’s Camp Bearskin.” According to guests who remember that era, for several years the Allens hosted an artists’ colony during the summer. This is probably how the Allens became acquainted with Marjorie Stolp Smock, a well-known artist from that era, who painted the 1935 “Ye Map of Camp Bearskin” now hanging in our lodge. Her children’s book, White Tail, King of the Forest, takes place at Bearskin and is a collector’s item now. She also illustrated many of the “Dick and Jane” readers from the 1950’s.
We have quite a few guests who still remember Ed and Myrtle Cavanaugh from their 28 years of owning Bearskin. Ed apparently was a man of numerous talents, ranging from professional ice skater to tournament sharp shooter. Myrt must have been a fantastic baker, as many people recall paddling towards Bearskin Lodge and smelling her bread baking from far down the lake.
Barb and Dave Tuttle bought the resort in 1973, when they were just out of college. Dave had worked in the summer for Frank Rizzo, a Kentucky professor who owned the resort for several years. Barb and Dave owned Bearskin for almost 30 years, and many of the decisions that define Bearskin as such a unique wilderness resort were choices made by Barb and Dave. They replaced the old Jackson lodge in 1980 with a comfortable, woodsy lodge designed by Duluth architect David Salmela. One of Mr. Salmela’s best known projects is the Gooseberry Falls Visitor’s Center, which shares some key design elements with the lodge at Bearskin.
Dave and Barb were cross-country ski visionaries. Dave started building ski trails through the deep woods at a time when there weren’t many ski trails anywhere in Minnesota. Bearskin’s cross country trails became one of Minnesota’s foremost ski destinations. Those trails have grown even more beautiful through the years.
When the McCloughan family bought Bearskin Lodge in 2007, we were fortunate to become part of business that has been a source of wonderful memories for generations of guests. We’ve met guests who biked here in 1933, who honeymooned here in the 1940’s, and who were toddlers here in the 1960’s – 1980’s. Many of our guests are the 4th generation in their family to make Bearskin Lodge a family tradition. Bearskin has countless guests who’ve been coming here for 30 – 40 years, and 20-year repeat guests are very common.
The McCloughan family takes our responsibility to maintain the legacy of Bearskin Lodge very seriously. We understand what a large role this special place holds in the family history of many our guests, so we do our best to make every trip to Bearskin Lodge a source of happy memories.