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On Campgrounds: Klearwater's Brand New

July 28, 2015 by   Leave a Comment

Bob Ashley

Bob Ashley

Jim Dux, the semiretired owner of a furniture-refinishing business in Flagstaff, Ariz., returned to his family’s homestead in Indiana this year to open Klearwater Lake Family Campground in Eaton, about 15 miles north of Muncie.

The park is small with only 16 campsites, but Dux plans to turn the lake into a recreation area for local children and groups.

“I’ve already had one couple call and ask about a doing their wedding on the lake in September,” Dux said. “I’ve also had a group of seven RVers that came to look the lake over who had been staying at another campground that they got upset with.”

Klearwater Lake

Klearwater Lake

Four-acre Klearwater Lake — formed when a stone quarry closed in the mid-20th century — was formerly known as Richardson’s Lake. It had been in Dux’s extended family for about 50 years and used primarily as a day-use park for fishing. It’s fed by three springs and has an average depth of about 30 feet.

“It hasn’t been restocked in a while, but it hasn’t been fished in a while either,” Dux said. “They used to hold catfish tournaments here; the biggest catfish that came out of there was 65 pounds.”

A levy on the property’s perimeter separates the campground from the Mississinewa River, which also is available for fishing.

Rumors are that the lake was a hiding place for John Dillinger, the notorious bank robber gunned down in 1934 by the FBI in Chicago. “It’s rumored that there’s a safe at the bottom of the lake,” Dux said. “I’m having some scuba divers come in and look for it. It’s a clear lake but it’s got a muddy bottom and it may have silted over.”

There have been plans for a long time to turn the property surrounding the lake into a campground. “When my cousin had it, that’s what he wanted to do with it,” Dux said. “He just didn’t have the time. I’d come back for family reunions and help him get it fixed up when it needed work.

“I took my retirement income and plunked it in here. God sort of asked me to do it. I’m just doing it on faith.”

Dux already has built a 45-by-12-foot deck that can be used for gatherings that extends into the lake and a 32-by-20-foot open-air shelter.

“It’s said that if you build it, they will come,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s true.”

The day I spoke to him, he was working on installing electric service to campground and upgrading the park’s water system.

Dux has turned a former bait shop into a concession stand. Grand opening was over the Memorial Day weekend when he offered people to camp and local kids to swim for free.

With the lake taking up half of the property, Dux has no plans to expand anytime soon.

“People really like the cleanliness of it and the smallness of it,” he said. “It’s not 150 sites. I want it to be a small family-atmosphere kind of place. I could get up to 30 sites in there if I really tried, but I don’t want to build it up just to make more money.”

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Among Minnesota’s best known locations — at least to National Public Radio listeners — is fictional Lake Wobegon, "the little town that time forgot, and the decades cannot improve.”

But the Land of 10,000 Lakes also features 140-acre Lake Ore-be-gone on the shores of which sits Sherwood Forest Campground in Gilbert, Minn., a 59-site RV park that’s extremely popular with scuba divers.

“Some parts of the lake are 450 feet deep,” said Barb Rautanen, who manages Sherwood Forest with her husband, John.

Created by the flooding of three abandoned iron ore pits, Lake Ore-be-gone also has become the resting place of an assortment of sunken attractions. “There are a couple of helicopters down there, cars, jeeps, a bus and other things,” Rautanen said. “We get a lot of people who come up here to go scuba diving to look for the relics.”

With a fishing pier and boat landing on Lake Ore-be-gone, Sherwood Forest also is adjacent to the 1,200-acre Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreational Area that draws scores of people with ATVs, dirt bikes and Jeeps. Also passing through the campground is the 72-mile Mesabi Trail bicycle trail that connects a number of small communities in Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Fifty miles north of Duluth and 75 miles south of the Canadian border, Sherwood Forest has a late season start — opening on May 1 through whenever the first freeze occurs, usually between Oct. 1 and 15.

“The snow has melted, but we did have snow flakes last week,” Rautanen said just after Memorial Day. “We don’t like to tell people that,” she joked.

The park was full over Memorial Day, and Rautanen expects that will be the case on weekends through the summer.

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Having managed Hillview RV Park in Clarkston, Wash., for 20 years, Marlene Patterson is sanguine about the 103-site campground.

“We are not a destination park,” she said. “We are a passing-through park. There’s really nothing for people to see here. The only thing we have are boat trips that go up the Snake River. We’re on the Lewis and Clark Trail; that brings a few people through.”

However, they are open year-round, “We basically are full all the time,” she reported.

Weather, she said, is a key reason.

“Winters are really good around here,” she said.

“We are in a banana belt. We didn’t have any snow this last winter and we didn’t have any zero-degree temperatures.”

About 75 of the park’s sites are permanent or seasonal rentals. “We have some people who have been here for 10 years,” she said. “We are clean and tidy for a park that has seasonal campers. We don’t want to start looking like a mobile home park.”

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