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Midwest Lake Vacation Spots: Stout’s Island Lodge

An island paradise

Stout's Island Lodge's front lawn
The lodge’s front lawn, scene of serious lounging and even more serious croquet matches. For more photos, check out the gallery »
 

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BIRCHWOOD, WISCONSIN

DRIVE TIME: 7 HOURS
LOCATED BY: RED CEDAR LAKE
BEST FOR: NATURE LOVERS

The afternoon sun was on its way down when we pulled off County Road V in Mikana, parked in the gravel lot, and carried our luggage to the dock. We opened the bottle of apple wine we had picked up en route at the Autumn Harvest Winery (19947 County Hwy. J; 715-720-1663) in Chippewa Falls—also the home of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s Leinie Lodge (124 E. Elm St.; 888-534-6437)—and settled in to wait for the ferry. In the distance, we could see a grove of trees that appeared to float in the middle of Red Cedar Lake. An American flag flapped from the pole that rose from the center of what turned out to be a pair of shapely islands.

Stout’s Island, where the Chicago lumber baron Frank Stout finished building a lavish summer compound for his family in 1912, is a ten-minute boat ride back in time. The Island of Happy Days, as Stout called it, remains a sanctuary of lapping waves, winding trails, and Adirondack-like old-fashioned serenity.

Four of the nine cabins, which surround the sprawling main lodge, were named for Stout’s children. (The newer cabins lack the imperfections—and thus the charm—of the original structures.) We stayed in Harry’s cedar log cabin, which offers views of the lake on three sides and a glimpse of an eagle nesting in a nearby ash tree. We spent lazy mornings curled up under an antique quilt in the window seat while a fire crackled in the Franklin stove.

The history of the Stout family is palpable everywhere, especially in the lodge, where the communal rooms feel purposefully lived in. The walls, decorated with hunting trophies, support vaulted ceilings made from carved beams imported from Bavaria. Locally sourced fish and game are served nightly. Photo albums from the lodge’s early days are kept in the sitting room.

Outdoors, beautiful wooden canoes hang from the walls of the boathouse, which extends over the water on pilings. Kids like to sit on the attached pier and fish; adventurers may want to try hydrobiking, kayaking, or canoeing. The expansive lawn is the scene of serious games of croquet, and the rest of the 26-acre property is great for light hiking. Feeling less ambitious? Among its activities, the resort lists “snoozing in a hammock.”
 

DAY TRIPS

From the ferry depot, drive 20 minutes south to Rice Lake. Rent bikes at Grinders (816 Hammond Ave.; 715-736-7858) and tackle the westernmost end of the Tuscobia State Trail (tuscobiatrail.com), a 74-mile abandoned railroad grade now used for outdoor recreation. Rice Lake’s quaint downtown includes antique shops such as Primrose Parlor (417 N. Main St.; 715-234-5849) and Thyme Worn Treasures (30 N. Main St.; 715-736-0233, thymeworntreasures.com). On your way out of town, pick up the legendary curds at Miller’s Cheese House (2248 Hammond Ave.; 715-234-4144), right around the corner from the Rice Lake Speedway (2002 22½ Ave.; 715-236-2002), a red-clay stock car racetrack. The lodge also offers ferry access to Tagalong (2855 29th Ave., Birchwood; 715-354-3458), the 18-hole golf course whose original front nine was constructed by Stout himself in the style of St. Andrew’s in Scotland.
 

THE DETAILS

2799 27th St., Birchwood; 715-354-3646, stoutsislandlodge.net
Rooms are $139 to $295 per person on weekdays, $149 to $345 on weekends.

 

Photograph: Brad Daniels

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