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Stevens Bay

Lake of the Woods, Ontario





Young’s Wilderness Camp started in 1936 and is believed the second camp to establish 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 get 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. They walked across the mile portage to Crow Lake where they arranged to have a boat take them 5 miles north where they picked a spot that looked ideal for a fishing and hunting resort. They hired a crew of about 20 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’d left Chicago, they contacted enough guests to fill their camp and so operations began.

About 2 years later, a prospector for the Ventures Mining Company found a vein of gold that ran right under Young’s Camp. He staked the area 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.


In the winters that the Young’s spent in the Crow Lake Camp with their cook and 2 guides, survival depended on bringing in a 6-month food supply as the only means of transportation was a team of 5 huskies and a dog sled. They kept a cook and two guides with them. A local construction crew from Emo, Ontario would bring their mail to the road construction camp and the guides would drive the dog team several miles over the ice to pick it up, 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. 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.


Over the years that followed, Lake of the Woods became increasingly 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 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.  The highway into Kenora was also completed, and 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 Post Office was combined with the Crow Lake’s and moved south to Dalseg’s store to accommodate a wider area. Commercial trucks and buses were operating on the new highway to service the area.  It was an exciting time!


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 left to serve the US Army, so Cy took over 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, the Youngs sold their Crow Lake Camp and 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 to be used for 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 Jimmy passed away 2 years later, so Hilda sold the camp in 1965 to Don and Millie Schmidt from Chicago. Hilda, and her 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 passed away 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 and sold to Pat and Joe McCarthy from Chicago. The McCarthy’s owned it until November of 1991 and sold it to Perry and Carol Anniuk from Manitoba. Perry & Carol successfully operated the camp as Young’s Wilderness Camp for the next 32 years while living at the camp’s landing. Perry, an avid musky hunter and workaholic, attracted anglers from the US via his expertise at sports shows and built the camp up with renovations, added buildings, dockage and boats while Carol built a strong reputation for the camp’s cooking, service, organization and cleanliness. They sold the business in 2023 to Ross Whelan and his wife Lily, and continue to live at the camp’s landing as Ross & Lily live in Alberta. Ross grew up on family-owned fishing resorts in northern Ontario before moving west to take up an international career in the oilfield. Lily built a massage therapy business but had a passion to open a restaurant. So the purchase was a win for both.


Young’s Wilderness Camp remains a paradise in the unspoiled wilderness, and its history builds every day.



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