About Life of Riley Resort

Life of Riley Resort


Thanks for your interest in Minnesota's most beautiful lake! Life of Riley Resort is the only resort located on Norwegian Bay -- a super fishing area and one guaranteed to give you that wilderness sensation of being in "God's Country."

Our resort has a "down home" atmosphere -- informal and friendly -with nothing fancy or posh. We specialize in good fishing, good food and good times. Service here is more than a slogan. Our goal is to make YOUR stay the best vacation ever.

Many guests have been complimentary in the past regarding the service they received at the Life of Riley. We received "rave reviews" about our food service last summer. Most first-time visitors are awed by our location. We are always pleased to hear the comments about the improvements from our "oldtimers" and we are especially pleased with our guests' fishing successes. Compliments regarding the cabin cleanliness, condition of fishing equipment and the overall good grades on grounds keeping were most welcome.

Singularly or in total, the foregoing may be the answer to "Why select the Life of Riley as your vacation spot?" We do strive diligently in all af those areas and by comparison, we do manage to excel. But more importantly, we at the Life of Riley sense a responsibility to assist our guests in their quest for a relaxed, fun-filled, worry-free, "come as you are -- do as you please" vacation.

As a result of this sense of responsibility to our guests, you will find friendly folks who are genuinely interested in our guests and their vacation objectives -- whether fishing, boating, family fun or just plain loafing.

If you are searching for "Just the right place" for your next vacation, we certainly want to extend our invitation for you to try the Life of Riley. You have our personal assurance that we will do our best ti assist you and welcome you. Our motivation is simple -- We want you to come back!

Give us a call or drop us a note about your objectives and specific needs. We'll be glad to help. Come on up and join us -- "Live the Life of Riley!" We look forward to being of service to you.


The Gilson Family

Guest Recommendations

We think you'll love Life of Riley Resort, but don't take our word for it.

It is very hard to condense what I know and feel about Lake Vermilion and especially the Life of Riley Resort. I have visited the Resort yearly for the past 24 years. The first four or five years, my wife and I spend one week at the Lake. After that we expanded our time to three and sometimes four weeks each year. I have fished almost every major Bass lake in the Midwest and the southern United States and none has ever produced for me, the numbers of Bass as Vermilion. It is also one of the greatest Muskie lakes in the country and puts out its share of twenty pound Pike. There is no such thing as a 'Bad Day of Fishing' on Vermilion. You can always try for Walleye, Bluegill, Crappies or even Perch if the Bass, Muskie or Pike slow down. We have always stayed at the Life of Riley Resort because I do not know how you could want anything better for you and your family. You will never meet nicer people than Rock and Lee Gilson, owners and operators of the Life of Riley. We have watched their three children, Josh, Caleb and Sara, grow from babies to responsible college students. I have never known a family more dedicated to making your time at their Resort as enjoyable. The family's involvement in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is almost unbelievable. Their participation in Scouting only adds to their knowledge and appreciation of every aspect of the outdoor world (hunting, fishing, canoeing, etc.). If you are looking for rest, relaxation, great fishing or you just want to enjoy some of the most magnificent scenery, you will be hard pressed to find a better place than the Life of Riley Resort on beautiful Lake Vermilion. Pat Johnson -- Pendleton, Indiana

Rock and Lee, I just want to send you guys a quick note to let you know what a great time we had last year and just how much we are looking forward to returning again this year. I can't believe how fast time goes. About twelve years ago my grandfather made a suggestion that we (Grandpa, Dad, and I) should go up to this place he found in Cook, MN and try our hand at fishing for a week. To be honest, I thought that it sounded fun, but wasn't sure about fishing for a whole week. I was 22 at the time and just wasn't sure about a whole week with Dad and Grandpa. I can now honestly say that this is a trip that I cannot imagine missing out on. Even on that first trip I knew that this was going to become "our" trip. You guys made us feel so welcome that very first year that it has become more of a family reunion than just a fishing trip. What has made it even better over the years is sharing Life of Riley with our friends. Every single person we have brought up has commented on how far your staff goes to help the guests and make them feel at home. The memories that we have made will stay with me forever. One of my favorite thoughts is: "Life is not about days, weeks, or years, it is about moments. It is about the memories that we make in those moments that we remember for days, weeks, and years". The thing about Life of Riley and your family and staff is that you are able to stretch those moments into one whole week of memories. Whether it is reeling in the big one (or just missing it), playing ping-pong in the game room, disco covering something outdoors, or just relaxing by the lake, looking up at the stars or Northern Lights, Life of Riley is without a doubt the best place to enjoy Lake Vermilion and the Northwoods. Thanks again, Rock and Lee, we can't wait to see you again this year. Brad Hasecuster -- New Palestine, Indiana

Livin' the "Life of Riley" The "Life of Riley" resort on scenic Lake Vermilion is truly a fisherman's paradise. For the past 15 years, my brother and I along with many friends have made the trip to Riley's. Besides the excellent multi-species fishing -- musky, walleye, pike, crappie, large/small-mouth bass, perch, blue gill, to name a few -- guests enjoy comfortable cabins and great food ... then, of course, there is the Gilson family -- some of the nicest people you would ever want to spend time with. Not only do they attend to all of your needs, they make you feel like a part of the family! Even after 15 years of coming to this resort, we look forward to it every year! We can truly say for the best week's vacation, you should come to the Life of Riley. Sincerely, Bill and Jim Kasallis and Friends p.s. The fishing tournament is a blast!

There are some places that you just feel good about, and Life of Riley's is such a place. We have been coming there for over ten years now and look forward to returning each year. It is hard to pick out just one thing that makes Riley's special, it is a little bit of everything that keeps us coming back. I guess the best way to sum up the Riley experience was a couple of years ago when as we turned into the entrance, our youngest son said "Dad we're home". Sincerely, Rick & Wendy Brown & Family

We could not imagine a better place to vacation than Life of Riley Resort on Norwegian Bay. The quiet, scenic beauty of Norwegian Bay, the great fishing available for so many different fish, and the outstanding staff who really make you feel like "family" when your there. Just the best experience our family has enjoyed for many years. Our family was not looking for a spa type experience. We were looking for an outstanding resort that was family- friendly and provided a great fishing experience. Life of Riley Resort scores big on both counts, and the location on Norwegian Bay was a great bonus. Sincerely, Dick Peach -- Chicago, Illinois


The rich and colorful history of more than 75 years

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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 modern 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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