Nestled in the forests of the Gunflint Trail on the edge of the clear waters of Trout Lake sits Trout Lake Resort, a family-owned business that is celebrating its 75th anniversary of welcoming guests to this corner of the Northern Wilds. For the past several decades, the Waver family have owned and operated the resort, a place just out of reach of cell phone service and “where time slows down.” Through 75 years of changes and twists in the road, the Wavers have crafted a place where guests not only experience the restorative connection with nature, but also genuine and lasting connections with each other.
The beginnings of Trout Lake Resort happened in 1946, when Chicago residents Bud and Charlet Kratoska left the city to move to Trout Lake with their two daughters. The Kratoskas purchased the property that is now Trout Lake Resort from Charlet’s sister and brother-in-law, and began to forge a life that was markedly different from the one they had known in Chicago. Upon their arrival, the property had just a few small cabins, a boat house, an ice house, and no running water, electricity, or telephone. The early years of life at Trout Lake were challenging, but with creativity and determination the family added buildings and amenities to the resort, making changes that included converting the boat house to a living space, using a 32-volt light plant to get electricity to the cabins, getting a telephone connection (initially by stringing wire through the trees to the nearest neighbor’s house five miles away) and eventually drilling a well and installing indoor plumbing.
One of Bud and Charlet Kratoska’s daughters is Nancy Waver, who recalls just how much hard work it took to run the resort in the early years.
“My dad really worked hard for the community and for tourism, and anybody who knew him knew that,” says Nancy.
Bud was secretary for the Gunflint Trail Association, and both he and Charlet were heavily involved in the Tip of the Arrowhead, a tourism association formed to promote Cook County. (Bud visited all of the county’s businesses to organize the Cook County Civic Council, which later became the Tip of the Arrowhead.) In addition to all of his work at the resort, Bud also worked for over 20 years as a bus driver for the school district.
When Bud passed away in 1986, Nancy moved back to Trout Lake to care for the resort, something that she has been doing ever since. While the resort has certainly changed since its earliest days, at its root it is still very much the same: a place where connections with nature and with others are the things that matter most, and the hustle of the modern world is left behind.
The past several years have held their own challenges for Trout Lake Resort, most notably a fire in April 2009 that destroyed the lodge and office building. With their same characteristic determination, the family set to work building the new lodge, which was inspired by and holds the same authentic feel as the old lodge, with an open concept where guests are encouraged to come in and, as Nancy put it, “be a part of the family.” Adorning the interior of the new lodge building are various gifts from guests, an outpouring of support after the fire that showcases the special connection that people find when visiting Trout Lake.
“One of the most rewarding things is that the people come back,” Nancy said. “They just love it here—something about it just draws you in.”
The Wavers said that they have families who have been coming up for years, including the children and grandchildren of some of their earliest guests. Some guests have even formed life-long friendships with other guests after meeting at the resort, and reconnect when they come back the same week each summer.
From the beginning, Trout Lake Resort has truly been a family endeavor, and with younger generations of the family growing up, the hope is to continue with the same authentic, family-focused spirit that has been a part of the start. “Our whole family loves this place,” Nancy said.