Winter at Na-Tah-Ka

Tucked neatly between Big Bass Lake and Loon Lake is Larry Bender’s operatitons including Na-Tah-Ka Tavern and Grill and his Corner Store.  It not only does a brisk business in the summer vacation months, but, as you see here, does not to so badly in the winter solace either.  This is the Lake County center for supper and fun when the weather turns frigid.

After snowmobiling for the day or ice fishing at either lake, patrons turn here for entertainment and good food.  Na-Tah-Ka even has their own Facebook page complete with all the goings on for that facility.  For decades Bender had waited for the Big Bass Lake store to cease operations to gain a foothold in the area and now his time has come.

The Big Bass Lake store is up for sale and badly in need of many repairs.  Perhaps one day an ice cream parlor will open there for the summer months?  Now that chapter has been closed and a new one opened almost at the center point between the two lakes. 

I wonder if the legendary camp monster from Camp Martin Johnson is related to Bender?  I think it was then known as “Baby Bender”.  Thoughts?

Big Bass, Loon, and Bluegill Lake

I’ve often wondered why there was never an attempt made to construct a channel between Big Bass Lake and Blue Gill Lake just to its East?  The difference between the two lakes is not that great and it would make for a great addition to both lakes.

Loon Lake is just to the South of Big Bass Lake and was once home to a roller rink on the western shore of that lake.  With all the tourism in this area one would think that a new roller rink would be a great attraction in this area.  Maybe even greater with Big Bass Lake as its host? 

Maybe the movers and shakers around Big Bass Lake will consider that channel between Big Bass and Bluegill Lakes?  It might then rival the Sauble Lakes chains within their four channels.  Just a thought!

Loon Lake Vantage Point

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What a great view of Loon Lake and also the best location to eat your supper. I know it will be a fish dinner of some sort, perhaps perch or bass? If this were the 1950’s you could put a reclining deck chair here and listen to the sounds of the organ music coming from the Loon Lake Roller Rink.

If you were close enough you could also observe the colored lights reflecting over all the lake from that rink.

At any rate just take a snooze out there on the deck and enjoy the wind rustling through the trees. Not a bad suggestion, eh?

Camp Martin Johnson History Part Two by Martin Johnson

I could see the north part of the lake and some of the land I had seen when I first struck the lake, which proved to be islands. I sat down on a fallen tree to meditate and realized that this was the place I had been dreaming about all the time. So I made up my mind I would buy this land and make a home of it. It was also desperately desolate with all the dead timber, and stumps, and brush standing and laying around. It would not be long until the old dead stuff would be gone and the second growth would come and make the place beautiful again.

We camped at Loon Lake the rest of the summer and fall. There were lots of small game and wood ducks that came to the lake when the acorns began to fall, so we had lots of game and could get all the fish we wanted. When the weather began to get cold we went home for the winter, but the next year in May returned and camped at upper Saubel Lake among the green pine. I there met George Murkel and made a bargain with him for the land I had picked out. I put a down payment on it and got a deed years later.

Bromen begain to grow stronger and we hunted and fished together. The woods were filled with huckelberries and blackberries and we picked lots of them. I made a cart with wood wheels with flanges so I could pull it along Peters’ narrow guage track, and on that cart I piled the berries to ship at the P.M. RR Junction. In the fall when the cranberries were ripe we picked and shipped them the same way. At that time there were not many people here except the lumbermen and two fellows on Saubel Lake, and two other men, one a darkey , the other an old soldier who lived in a shack which had once been in a lumber camp. The old soldier was a friendly sociable man. When anyone came to his shack he would say “Come in nieghbor; help yourself to the nearest seat; fill your pipe and let’s have a good sociable smoke and a good sociable chat”. Then he would begin to talk about his adventures in hunting deer and bear and trapping otter and beaver, and about wishing people would come and settle here so that they would visit him.

In the autumn I made several oil sketches around Bass Lake, but when it began to be cold Bromen and I went home to Sparta and I took up my work of portrait and landscape painting for several years. The call to go back north again began to be stronger all the time. I managed to get up for a week or two each year and in the fall of 1893 I put up a little log cabin and stayed all winter and did some chopping and clearing way of brush around the cabin where I intended to build my house. For several more years I did portraits, but the call to go north to my place grew stronger all the while. In January, 1901, I said goodbye to civilization and came up to my little cabin and began to cut timber for my house. The snow was deep and the weather was bad, and it took me until March before I had enough material for the house. Before the ice went out I hired a man with a team to haul logs and poles to the place where I wanted to build. Afterwards I hired the same man to help me hew the logs. It took me all summer to build, as I worked mostly alone and as everything had to be made with the ax.

For the joists, rafters, and studdings I used small logs and hewed them on two sides, and for the rafters I used pine and cedar poles. The rafters were hewed on the top only. I had to have some sawed lumber but it was cheap in those days. Dressed lumber for window frames and casings, and maple flooring cost $12 a thousand delivered at Peacock; now it is nearly ten times that amount. By the time I had the house up and the roof on my brother John came and made most of the window frames for me, and would have stayed longer but for a message from home saying that his boy was sick. After that I did the rest myself. The worst was the plastering especially on the ceiling. When I started to plaster it came down again and covered me all over. I was very discouraged and would quit but in a few minutes was at it again until I got the hang of it. After that the work went fairly well.

Next part 3.

Camp Martin Johnson History Part One by Martin Johnson

I was dreaming, dreaming of a place up north in the woods where there was a beautiful lake. I never had any desire to go South, East, or West — only North.

After two or three days I went back to Marquette. One of the hunters went with me or I would not have been able to find my way through the woods and over the mountains. I did a few oil sketches, mostly on “Dead River” and then went back to my old home in Sparta township and made portraits for three years. A boy friend got consumption and his doctor said that the only hope for him was to go camping among the pines. He induced me to take him up north. So in 1889 I brought him into Lake County and we camped near where my home came to be. We should have left the train at Peters Crossing but through some mistake of the man who directed us, we were carried on to Manistee, crossing 25 miles north. Next morning we took the train back to the water tank on the little Manistee River, but had bad luck at the river where we camped as it rained all the time. As soon as the weather cleared I struck out across the country to find Bass Lake or the Saubel Lakes. I found the Saubel Lakes in the afternoon and next day brought the young man, Herbert Bromen, and we camped a few days until I got our supplies packed in. At that time lumbering operations were at their height, and Peter’s headquarters were at Saubel Lakes, with a crew of 100 men. In a few days, we moved to Loon Lake, where we camped the rest of the summer. At that time Loon Lake was surrounded with virgin pine which was in its beauty, wonderfuly majestic, the tall dark forest for miles around darkly solemn. At that time Lake County was one of the richest counties in Michigan but it is poverty stricken now, all through selfishness. If it had not been for selfishness, this county could have been as rich today as it was 45 years or 50 years ago. If the lumber men had cut only what was ripe and protected the rest from fire so it could have kept on growing, that would have kept them lumbering as the timber grew up. People want to get rich quick, make their pile and have what they call a good time. It is selfishness that spoils our lives and blinds us to the beautiful things of life. The things which alone can make up a happy and contented life for us. If it had not been for the fires or the cut-over land there would have been lots of timber yet. The state should have started reforesting years ago. The first night we camped at Loon Lake we had one of the worst thunder storms and cloud bursts I have ever seen, with continous lightning from all directions. It was impossible to sleep and towards morning Bromen asked me what I thought of this. I said I thought it was rather damp. The water was rushing all around us but it was lucky that we had our tent on a little knoll or we would have floated away. Many trees went down during the night and in the morning every other telephone pole and sometimes two or three in succession were shattered along Peter’s telephone line. It was the wildest night I have ever seen. The water had risen four inches in the lake during the night.

After we were well settled at Loon Lake I started to find Big Bass Lake. In this oak and pine forest it was pretty thick and dark; one could not see far ahead but I finally found it. I came to where the school house now stands and started to walk around the lake, but I could not see more than a small part of it at any time. I did not know that the lake was as big as it proved to be. I started walking north but when I had gone a little way I came to where the timber had been out and there the walking became extremely difficult. Fire had gone over and fire wood had grown up as high as my head. It was then shedding its down and filled my eyes, nose, and mouth with its soft, flaky, white wool. It also concealed the logs and brush underneath and made walking more difficult. At that time they did not cut the hemlock, or oak, or anything but pine and the other timber lost its support and was hurled in all directions. Here and there a big jumble of trees interlocked branches with weed and blackberrie briar all interwoven so it took from one and a half to two hours to go from where the school house now stands to where my house is now located.
I will continue this in part 2.

Pleasant Acres on Loon Lake

Does anyone at Loon Lake remember this Resort? What side of the lake was it on? Did any of your friends stay there? And what year did they open and close? Could Loon Lake today get enough business for a resort? What was your remembrance of Pleasant Acres Resort? The Only Resort I remember on the lake would have been the Northeast side of the lake. Please leave us a comment with any responses to one questions.

Close Proximity

The Upper Lake you see here was Big Bass Lake and the lower one was Loon Lake. In between the two Lakes was Na-Tah-Ka which was Larry Bender’s Pub and Grill. To the right was Sauble Township Hall, the Big Bass Lake softball field, and Fellowship Church. The small island you see in Big Bass Lake was known in my day as Grandma’s Hat. At one time the Big Bass Lake store was also here. This is what I call the Big Bass Lake downtown area.

Loon Lake Cabins

I will need some help this time from my readership. These are called the Waite cabins on Loon Lake from the 1940s. I would wonder if it is from Clyde Waite the same gentleman that lived on Big Bass Lake on the Big Island sometimes called Waite Island. Any help would be appreciated by way of a comment. Thank you.

Fishing on Loon Lake

This little guy looks like he’s having a fun time fishing. He also looks like he enjoys having his photograph taken. But he probably wishes he had a big fish to show off as well. He’s fishing on a pier on Loon Lake. I also wonder how many he’s already caught? Maybe he’ll even find some time to dip his feet into the water to cool them off. On a hot day a pier can get rather hot. Then again maybe he’ll just jump in and start swimming like the fish do? Do you think he knows how to skin and clean a fish? One thing he does know how to do and that is eat what he catches. Hmm good!

How About One of These at Big Bass Lake?

A submarine vessel at Big Bass Lake. You could check out the best place to fish this way. Or to actually see what’s at the bottom of the lake.

But there’s also other possibilities. You can sneak up on someone at night and surface and watch them set a rowing record to shore. You can also take this baby just over the surface of the lake.

Just imagine how fun this would be? You could Buzz right past the speed boats leaving them standing in awe. And suppose you’re only up here for the weekend? How in the world are you going to get home? Well?

You sure won’t have to get an airline ticket. This vessel has all you need. You can also use it at Loon Lake and Sauble Lake as well. Just don’t ask me about the price tag. And you don’t have to even use the public landing. This will even set the yellow plane on edge.

Loon Lake Resort

There used to be a resort on Loon Lake back in the early 1900s. It wasn’t like a resort today but still interesting. Some nights they played bingo. For me playing bingo is like watching paint drying. But some people really enjoy it. I suppose picnics were.high on the list there. And of course swimming and fishing were popular as well. Taking a night boat ride on the lake would have been high romance in those days. Anyone else know much about this place on Loon Lake?

Remembering North Shore Camp on Loon Lake

It seems to me that in the 1950’s and 60’s there was some sort of camp or resort on the north side of Loon Lake.  I recall hearing  a lot o activity whenever my family went to the Loon Lake Roller Rink and it was always centered on the northwest side of that lake.  There were a lot of kids there at that time.

Perhaps some of the old timers who read BBL and Beyond would know about that place.  If so, leave us a comment as to what this facility was and whether it was a camp or resort.  If a camp, who supported it and how many kids attended it? 

Swimming in Loon Lake 

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I was I believe about 4 or 5 years old, and wading in Loon Lake was a popular habit for all of us kids. The grown-ups watched from shore. I wandered out too far into the lake…..and lost my footing, going down beneath the cool blue water. In my panic and confusion (and not knowing how to swim) I started the drowning process. Leaping up from the water, spitting water from my mouth and hollering for help! After the second time under I felt a strong arm grab mine and haul me to the surface. Kicking and sputtering and crying, I grabbed on to Dad with arms of steel, thanking him over and over. He was my hero! He still is……

After that incident I don’t remember too many other trips to Loon Lake. I am sure it is just that my memory has latched onto that episode and sort of wiped out anything else. Mom tells me we did go there on occasion, even after that. I guess it is just the sort of thing that sticks in your mind!