HISTORY OF YOUNG'S WILDERNESS CAMP
Young’s Camp, now called Young’s Wilderness Camp, is perhaps the second camp to be established in what is now Nestor Falls.
In the early part of 1932, Clyde Young and his wife Emma left Chicago to come to Canada and go into the hunting and fishing business. Unfortunately, their current business had been hit by the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent depression. Clyde, known as “Cy”, had been on a couple of fishing trips with friends and decided to locate on Crow Lake. At that time the highway ended at the falls (in Nestor Falls) so from there they went by boat on Lake of the Woods to Sabaskong Village, then known as Crow Portage. Once there, they walked across the mile portage to Crow Lake where they arranged to have a boat waiting for them to take them five miles north on Crow Lake. Here they picked a spot that looked ideal for a fishing and hunting resort. They hired a crew of about twenty woodsmen from a nearby community called Finland and set to work building a main lodge and three guest cabins, all of log construction. By the time the ice went out on Crow Lake in the spring, they were all set up for business. Before they left Chicago, they had contacted enough guests to fill their camp and so operations began.
About two years later, a prospector was sent to the area by the Ventures Mining Company to look for gold - he found a vein that ran right under Young’s Camp. He immediately staked the area for about a square mile and sent for his superiors who authorized the purchase of the property. The purchase price was substantial enough for Youngs to purchase a better location on Stevens Bay, on the Lake of the Woods.
The Young’s were very isolated during the two winters they spent in their Crow Lake Camp. They had to bring in a six-month supply of food that would last them for the entire winter. Their only means of transportation was with a dog team of five huskies and a dog sled. They kept a cook and two guides with them for the winter. A local construction crew from Emo, Ontario would bring their mail to the road construction camp. The guides would drive the dog team several miles over the ice, to the road construction camp, to pick up their mail. Young’s also used the dog team to put up ice for refrigeration in summer, and to bring firewood into camp.
By this time, construction of the Fort Frances-Kenora Highway was well under way. Young’s built another resort five miles south on Crow Lake, near the new highway. This way he could have easier access to the Lake of the Woods camp where they kept a boat to transport guests to their island camp.
Crow Lake was used mostly in the spring and fall for Trout fishing and has always been a fabulous lake for Trout. The Lake of the Woods Camp would operate until the fall freeze up and then would then be closed for the winter. Young’s, and their staff, would winter at the Crow Lake Camp.
Lake of the Woods is known by leading Sportsmen as one of the best destinations on the Continent for fishing and hunting. Several of the world’s largest Muskies have been caught in Stevens Bay, and Walleye, Smallmouth Bass and great Northern Pike are in abundance. In the fall, Stevens Bay is a stopover for the northern flight of ducks on their way south. Most of the camp’s clientele were, and still are, from the Mid-Western and Southern states.
In the late 1930’s the Government put in a Post Office at the Crow Lake Camp and a member of Young’s staff, William Hele, was the first postmaster. Young’s also operated a restaurant and kept staff year round. Their camps operated on the American Plan, and their staff included a cook, chore boy, waitresses, cabin girls and guides.
When Youngs first opened the Lake of the Woods camp, the guests would leave their cars at Crow Lake, walk the one-mile portage to Lake of the Woods, then travel one mile by boat to the camp. All supplies and luggage were taken across the portage by horse and wagon for the first few years. Once a better road was constructed they used a tractor and trailer and, as time went on, the road was developed enough for cars so the guests would drive right to the Lake of the Woods landing.
In 1936, Young’s brought their nephew Jimmy Gleason from Kansas into the business as a manager. This left Clyde and Emma free to travel to the United States in the winter to solicit business and oversee the building of additional cabins in their camps.
In 1936 the highway into Kenora was completed. The Young’s built another camp at Sioux Narrows, 23 miles north of the Crow Lake Camp. This camp was operated for about five years and then sold to Dr. Motlong. It is still operated by the Motlong family, as the Rod and Reel Camp.
Year by year, Nestor Falls was expanding - other camps were built and other businesses were opening. A school was built, two churches, a community hall and private residences for people employed by the expansion. American tourists were also building summer homes on the mainland and adjacent islands. The Nestor Falls Post Office was combined with the Crow Lake Post Office and moved five miles south to Dalseg’s store, to accommodate a wider area. Commercial trucks and buses were operating on the new highway servicing the area.
Things were really booming until the Second World War broke out and slowed down the activity. Most of the guides joined the Armed Forces, and the girls who had been employed left for the cities to do factory work for the Government.
Jimmy Gleason joined the U.S. Army and served three years in the South Seas. Cy took over a volunteer job as Special Constable for the community along with the operating of his camps. Camp business had slowed down considerably but most of the camps were able to keep going until the war ended. The First Nations People were their only salvation so far as guiding and camp work were concerned. The Young’s found them to be loyal, efficient and well liked by the guests.
In 1945 Youngs sold their Crow Lake Camp. They bought property just across the highway - at the entrance to their portage road to the Lake of the Woods landing. They constructed a winter home, an office and later a small motel known as Young’s Motel, to be used in conjunction with the overflow from their Lake of the Woods Camp. As a sideline, Cy also became a Real Estate Broker. He specialized in selling established and new campsites, along with lakeshore properties for summer homes. His activities covered Rainy River and Kenora Districts.
When the War ended there was a huge influx of American fishermen and hunters, along with other tourists, to Canada. Jimmy Gleason returned from the war where he and his wife Hilda took over the management of the Lake of the Woods Camp. They purchased the camp in 1961 and two years later Jimmy died very suddenly. Hilda sold the camp in 1965 to Don and Millie Schmidt from Chicago. Hilda, and her five-year-old daughter Cindy, moved to the highway location with the Young’s and worked in the real estate business. In 1971, she moved to Winnipeg. Although the Young’s were advancing in years, they kept up their activities in real estate and operated their motel. They were instrumental in building up the communities of Nestor Falls, Sioux Narrows and Morson.
In 1976 Clyde died suddenly of a heart attack and Emma sold the highway property to Don and Millie Schmidt who had previously bought the Stevens Bay Camp. Emma then moved to Winnipeg to live with her nieces Hilda and Cindy Gleason. Emma has since passed away.
Young’s Lake of the Woods Camp, was owned by Don and Millie Schmidt until the mid 1980’s, when it was sold to Pat and Joe McCarthy from Chicago. The McCarthy’s owned it until November of 1991 when it was sold to the current owners, Perry and Carol Anniuk from Manitoba. It is still operating successfully under the name of Young’s Wilderness Camp. New buildings have been added and it is indeed a paradise in the unspoiled wilderness.