Journeys: Camp Keepsakes in Detroit Lakes

Castaway Club on Pelican Lake is chalk full of unforgettable memories.

A beach at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

photo by Karen Skoyles

“Do you want help carrying your stuff to the bus?”

I rubbed my eyes. “No, Dad. This is my sixth time going to camp, remember?” I said.

“I got it, I promise,” he responded.  “Have fun, babe. I love you.”

Annoyed by his offer (I obviously could do it on my own), my 13-year-old self plopped out of his navy blue Ford. He dropped me off in the lower parking lot of my middle school, and over my shoulder, I watched the taillights turn right and head back up the hill to my Red Wing home.

With my blue speckled pillow stuffed under my left arm, my far-too-full duffel bag straining my right shoulder, and my metallic pink Motorola flip phone clenched in my hand, I struggled to carry all the things I (totally didn’t) need for a week up north. Waddling under the weight of my bag, I made my way over to the bus that would, yet again, carry me into what would be one of the best, most memorable weeks of my life: Castaway Club in Detroit Lakes.

Thanks to an impressively long nap and circa-2007 cellphone games, the 261­ miles up Interstate 94 and US-10 to Becker County was a piece of cake. The bus crawled to a stop, and I glanced out the fogged window to my right.

I was slightly car-sick, but my eyes still widened at the first sight of clear blue skies, vibrant greenery, and the endless glisten of Pelican Lake (which I was so stoked to go tubing in, by the way).

In total, it took five hours of driving and a few too many bathroom breaks, but at last, I took my first step off the bus. The lake breeze and familiar smell of freshwater, gorgeous scenery, and northern Minnesota beauty was more than enough to make Detroit Lakes feel like home away from home.

My teenage ‘tude and camping days are now a thing of the past, but I will always look back at my time in Detroit Lakes fondly.  And, thankfully, you don’t have to go to a weeklong camp to enjoy all Detroit Lakes has to offer. (But, you most certainly can if you’d like to— Castaway Club offers a family camp in August).

The city is known for its miles of public beaches, outdoors recreation, food, golfing, fishing, musical festivals, and fantastic lakefront views. Personally, I have yet to explore the hidden gems of Detroit Lakes outside of Castaway Club, but if it’s anything remotely close to what I’ve experienced, it’s a trip worth taking (over and over and over again).