Flooded N.D. Farm Turned into Campground
Click here to watch a video, courtesy of WDAZ-TV, Grand Forks, N.D., about the following story.
The rise of Devils Lake has swallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, crushing the livlihoods of those affected. But some former farming families have switched gears, turning the lake from damaging to dollar signs.
The Wood family had farmed near Warwick for more than 50 years before water started eating away at their land. Once they had lakeshore property, crops were replaced by campers.
Bill Wood: "Originally it was about 200 acres, and I'd say we lost a good 40."
After water swallowed up a fifth of Bill Wood's land, his family felt the need to change.
Valerie Wood: "Farming wasn't the most profitable thing at that time."
So the family began a small campground in 1998, selling bait out of a garage. The idea soon caught on.
Bill: "The spring of 1999 we finally decided to pursue this full time. That's when we built the bait shop here."
The Eastbay Campground has become a family venture with Wood's children growing up amongst campers.
Evan Wood: "I was 11 when it started … When I was little I just kind of sold some firewood. Not much, you know. Mowed lawns. Actually, I still do that, but on a much larger scale."
The campground has been successful but not without similar flooding issues that plagued their farmland.
Bill: "It has destroyed some of the campground. We originally started with 50 seasonal sites. We lost 45 of them."
Adam Ladwig: "They never stop dealing with the water here at Eastbay Campground. In fact, they're in the middle of building a 500-foot-long marina to protect boats from the water when the wind starts whipping."
Bill: "I had one guy launch a boat last year and when he got done he had a gas tank left on the boat. That was all he had left."
It's the latest example of a successful gamble that helped keep the Wood family where they belong.
Evan: "With it being in the family, our relatives still have a place they can call home."
The campground has grown so much that Valerie Wood recently left her job at Lake Region State College to work full time at Eastbay.