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Life of Riley Resort - Over 75 Years of Service!


In our fast-paced lifestyle, we often forget the difficulties of the past. Folks traveled to Lake Vermilion in Model T's to stay in remote cottages with outdoor plumbing and fish the secluded bays in wooden boats without motors. How times have changed! Guests now arrive in fancy cars, with cell phones and colored fish locators.
In 1929 Riley and Dorothy Creigh began to build a spot for friends and family to escape to. As a nephew of Goodwill, Riley received Norwegian Bay. He was to log during the winter, but found his summers spent with friends fishing. His bunkhouse held many keen fishermen, but the idea soon grew into a nine cabin resort. It was tough to build. He used a team of horses and a Model A or Model T along with winches to build Cabin Three -- a feat a moderm contractor would find taxing. Dorothy served family style meals in their home and was well-known for always serving tasty walleye fillets with each meal. Riley, being an accomplished mason, built four stone fireplaces at the resort. The first fireplace in his home (destroyed in the 1940s by fire) is now part of the gazebo where romance continues to kindle at its hearth. The bunkhouse fireplace was functional and still stands at the end of the lodge. Perhaps the most spectacular fireplace is in the log house -- Homestead Cabin. It has many beautiful stones in its arrangement. The fireplace most difficult to build was Cabin Three, atop the bluff. It is so cozy to watch the fire dance while enjoying the spectacular view from this cabin.

Riley & Dorothy Creigh, 1929
Stories and tales abound from Riley's day and the colorful guests and events the resort has seen. The resort was mentioned in "Life" magazine as the alleged hideout for Gill Davis, a hit man for Al Capone. Rocky Haven served this need with its view down the bay and of the road. Of course, there was a quick back exit to the airstrip if the need arose. Riley supposedly was a little shady with the running of rum from Canada during the prohibition years. Bringing the rum into the United States with his sled dogs, Riley would then wait at the resort listening for the departing whistle of Peggy, the mail boat. Riley would then meet the steamboat at its wood stop in Oak Narrows where they would transfer the illegal cargo onto the boat for its trip down the lake to Tower and to be trucked to the Chicago area.

Liquor soon gave way to fur running after the end of prohibition. With some imagination, a person could visualize the fur hideout from the broken relics found behind Cabins Four and Five.
Time marched on and Riley had to sell his dream to Al Barnett to recover from a logging scam in the 1950s. The Creighs left by the dark of night to head south. Al and Emma Barnett continued to expand the resort buildings, adding Cabins 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 16 and added sleeping rooms above the garage. The Barnetts used the mobile home -- Cabin 13 -- to head south for the winters until it was added to the resort. Al also developed the island located off the swimming beach as a home for his wife. He built the dining hall where Emma served three meals each day and used the old lodge for bridge tournaments. A new luxury was added -- Water! Al was a master of names and faces -- a true developer of the family vacation.


Mike and Artie Wical, along with Charlie and Carol Bass, purchased Life of Riley in 1960. They continued the tradition of fishing and family atmosphere. The Wicals bought out the Basses' interest in the resort in 1963. Donna came to help with Roger in 1961. Together they enlarged and expanded the resort by adding more sleeping rooms on the staff quarters and built Cabins 17 and 18, as well as the existing lodge. Mike made numerous cabin improvements and enlargements. The dining hail was again the place to enjoy delicious baked goods. The idea of service was personified and hard work and determination kept Riley's dream alive and growing. 1980 brought Chuck and Paula Bloczynski to the resort. Plans of enlargement and outdoor clean-up began. The pole barn, laundromat, gazebo and the foundations for the adult area were built. Joined by Rock and Lee Gillson in 1980, the operation was under way. Rock and Lee purchased the resort in 1985 and we have seen the addition of Cabins 19, 13, Northwoods, Northern Lights, along with Cabins 11, 12, 17, 18, 14 reset. We are on our second round of new decks and docks. The usual updates of furniture, bedding, carpets, windows, lighting, appliances, as well as countless additional items that always need attention and replacement. The addition of Josh, Caleb and Sara have brought our family into Scouting (Boy and Girl). With their help, we are building Camp Nooden, allowing many an opportunity to enjoy the pristine area nestled between Lake Vermilion and the Vermilion River.
Yet, it all takes so much time and money. We are working at a pace which allows us to have enough of both! Patience will see us develop our goals to make stays at Life of Riley special. We believe time-off for you is our time to buckle down and do all that we can to make your trip great!.
Our staff is the key -- it seems like it would be impossible to find another group that works together as well as our staff -- our young people are special and work hard behind the scene to make it all happen!
As we look ahead, we continue to develop and expand the resort family. The paths we cross each summer are blessed with beautiful people and the experiences draw us closer to the relaxed atmosphere Riley has come to be known for. Guests have helped battle fires, administer first-aid, swing a hammer or help a fellow friend. The good will is contagious and the friendships are everlasting. We look forward to growing old with such an abundance of wonderful folks and hope to share many terrific memories.



Make a Reservation!
Life of Riley Resort -- Box 1147, Cook, MN 55723
(218)666-5453 or (800)777-4479
rocknlee@cpinternet.com