Travel Magazine

The Road to Camp Bovey

By Carolinearnoldtravel @CarolineSArnold


Camp Bovey sign, 1961.

Seventy-five years ago, under the direction of my father, Les Scheaffer, North East Neighborhood House, a settlement house in Minneapolis, founded Camp Bovey. It was a place where children and families of Northeast Minneapolis could enjoy nature and the outdoors, learn camping skills, and have fun together. My first trip to Camp Bovey (then called Camp Hodag) was when I was four years old. Over the next seventeen years I went there many times--with my family, as a camper, and as a staff member for the summer sessions when I was in college. No matter how many times I made the trip, I always felt the excitement of going to Camp.


The four Scheaffer children at Camp Bovey, 1951.

I write about Camp Bovey in four chapters of my new memoir, SETTLEMENT HOUSE GIRL: GrowingUp in the 1950s at North East Neighborhood House, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here is an excerpt, describing the trip to Camp as I knew it as a child.


Camp Bovey. View of the lodge from across the lake, 2022.

The trip to Camp Bovey from northeast Minneapolis is 150 miles. I know all the stops and landmarks by heart, and no matter how many times I take the trip, the excitement of going to Camp never fades. If you don’t stop, you can make it in about three hours. But for our family the trip always takes longer, with stops along the way for gas, groceries, toilets, a picnic lunch, and if we are lucky, wildlife viewing--perhaps a deer, bald eagle, or in spring, a patch of trilliums.

We always aim to get an early start, but never do, and by the time we reach Taylor’s Falls on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River, everyone is hungry. St. Croix State Park, across the bridge on the Wisconsin side of the river, is a favorite lunch spot with its scenic view, rocks to climb, and space for my brothers and me to use up some energy before getting back into the car.

After lunch we head east to Turtle Lake, where we turn north on Highway 63 toward Cumberland, home of the Tower House Restaurant, named for the turret on the Victorian house in which it is located. When I am thirteen I taste an exotic foreign food for the first time at the Tower House—pizza! It is delicious.

Cumberland is on an isthmus between two lakes. In winter, the Chamber of Commerce drives an old car onto the frozen lake and raises money by taking bets on when the ice will melt and the car will sink. In 1960, we pass through town in early April and the car is still sitting on the ice. We are on the way to Camp to celebrate my brother Tom’s tenth birthday. By the time we go by again, on our way to Camp for a Memorial Day work weekend, the car is gone. We never find out how long it took for the ice to melt that year.

After Cumberland, the next major town is Spooner. We sometimes stop for a light meal at the Buckhorn Inn on Spooner’s main street. My brothers and I love sitting on the high bar stools. We are allowed to order anything under a dollar. As we wait for our food we ponder the heads of deer and other animals mounted on the wall and wonder if the bizarre two-headed calf is real. It is. Outside Spooner, Highways 53 and 63 merge, and we continue north, going through the tiny towns of Minong and Wascott before arriving at our turnoff at Gordon. To the left is the fire tower on top of the hill above Lake St. Croix. We turn right onto County Road Y.

At Gordon, we are ten miles from Camp and almost there. The first five miles out of town are on a two-lane blacktop. When we reach Flamang Road, we turn left onto a graded sand road. We drive for another five miles, crossing Ox Creek and passing a few cabins. A sign for Camp Bovey, across from a cluster of tumble-down log buildings that we call the haunted farm, marks the last leg of the trip, a narrow rutted road winding through jack pine forest. It isn’t long before we get the first glimpse of Lake Metzger glimmering through the trees, and then, after passing the three “boys” cabins, pull into a parking place at the back of the lodge. We have arrived at Camp.


Flagpole. Dedication to Lester Scheaffer, founder of Camp Bovey, 1949.

Today’s trip to Camp Bovey bypasses Taylor’s Falls and follows the Interstate toward Duluth, cutting over to Highway 53 at Spooner. But the thrill of going to Camp never fades.

Camp Bovey is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, 2024. It is still a place for children and families to enjoy the out-of-doors. For more about Camp Bovey and anniversary events, go to the Camp Bovey Facebook page or the ESNS website. (North East Neighborhood House became East Side Neighborhood Services (ESNS) in 1963.)

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog