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Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging under new ownership

Fri, Aug 1st, 2014
Posted in Lanesboro Features

Dan and Melanie Ritter are the new owners of Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging. Photo by Barb Jeffers

Dan and Melanie Ritter have set their “sites” on a new adventure with the purchase of Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging located between Lanesboro, and Whalan.

After owning and operating several businesses in the past the couple decided in was time for something different. The two looked at restaurants with cabins, and resorts with cabins, but after one resort owner told Melanie she owned over 60 sets of sheets that idea faded quickly!

The search then led to campgrounds with four separate attempts to purchase different campgrounds falling through. The couple then heard about Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging and, in a last ditch effort, came to meet the owners and tour the campground.

Melanie and Dan fell in love with the campground and the area saying, “It’s gorgeous here with the bluffs and the eagles,” said Melanie. The Root River running alongside the campground adds beauty you can not only see but also hear and in areas the river is shallow enough to walk across to a sand bar.

On June 17, 2014 the Ritters took over ownership of the campground from previous owners, Ivan & Gail Naber and Harry & Mary Naber, who had built the campground to what it had become over the last 20 years. Melanie said that the Nabers are wonderful people and thank them immensely for all they have done.

Since moving from Blue Earth, Minn. and selling their home there the Ritters have been immersed in learning the day to day operations of the campground. Melanie said, “We are hard workers.” And that is good, because hard work is what they have, although, along with the work comes many positives as well.

Easing the transition for Dan and Melanie has been long time seasonal camper, and worker at the campground, Kermit Knutson, who has been a seasonal camper at Eagle Cliff for 17 years. The Ritters describe 73-year-old Knutson as a “go-getter” and Melanie added “he is amazing” while Kermit describes himself as “a seasonal, a worker, and a loafer” with a chuckle.

With 217 sites which include seasonal, weekenders, and tent sites there is no shortage of work to be done. Then take into account 75 acres of property that needs to be maintained and you will get an idea of just how much manual labor is needed to keep the campground looking as beautiful and well-maintained as it is. The campground also offers group sites which have been used for Boy Scout camping trips and large family gatherings.

If camping is not your style there is a five unit motel on site located in a convenient spot within walking distance of other activities within the campground. Melanie said, “We take a lot of pride in having clean bathrooms for campers and having a clean motel,” which is of great importance to those staying there whether for a night or a week.

The campground is large enough that there are neighborhoods called South Park and North Park on each end of the property with plenty of space in between. Although large in size the campground feels cozy and warm thanks to the seasonal campers who organize several activities throughout the camping season that make even first time visitors feel like they are at home.

One activity that brought a lot of excitement to the campground was the Golf Cart Parade on July 4, 2014 with campers decorating their golf carts and bicycles and dressing in costume. Kermit Knutson, the Grand Marshal of the Golf Cart Parade, dressed in red, white, and blue with his golf cart decorated in matching colors. The evening ended with Eagle Cliff’s own professional fireworks display thanks to the Tippery family who put on a fantastic show for everyone at the campground.

Another fun event held recently at Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging was a 50’s dance complete with a DJ and the women in poodle skirts. Upcoming events include Christmas in July, Halloween on August 9, a Golf Tournament on August 23, the Root River Clean-Up on September 6, and the Seasonal Campers Appreciation Dinner on September 13. To view photos from these events visit the Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging Facebook page. The seasonal campers also tend to their own large garden at Eagle Cliff making it feel even more like home.

Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging rents canoes, kayaks, tubes, and cooler tubes and you could not ask for an easier trip. The campground will shuttle people up to get in the river and then they get out at the campground. There is no waiting for outfitters to come and pick up your group. Keep your eyes open while floating or paddling down the river as the Eagle’s in the area are known to do a fly- by to see who’s in the water.

An additional feature to make visitors time at the campground more comfortable and relaxing is the little convenient store located in the office where a person can pick up those last minute items they may have forgotten or pick up an Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging t-shirt as a souvenir. There are many useful and fun items in the store including toiletries, paper plates, condiments, and much more.

There are also items in the store for kids such as glow necklaces, bracelets, and even glow masks. The Ritters also keep the yard game “mega 4 in line” in the store for families to borrow and Melanie said the game has been very popular.

Although Melanie said everything was pretty well in place when the couple bought the campground there are a few improvements they would like to do including updating an existing building for use with large events such as graduations and weddings and additionally want to start catering to young kids more by upgrading playground equipment, Dan said.

Dan and Melanie have had different family members who have come to help out during the busy weekends which they are grateful for. The Ritters have four children including Kurt, 26, Lani, 22, who is married to Chris Viljoen, Justin, 18, and Joe, 15. The couple lives in a house within the campground.

The Ritters state that with campers coming from all over the world and the seasonal campers they have met many new friends and added that there are so many nice people here. One camper from California stayed two weeks and put almost 200 miles on his bike telling Dan that he has been on a lot of bike trails in the United States and the world and “you’ve got one of the best places right here.”

Even though they were unsure of what the Ritters’ plans for the campground were, the seasonal campers really welcomed the Ritters, recalled Melanie.

Eagle Cliff Campground and Lodging is open from April 1 - October 15 each year although there are thoughts of possibly having the motel open for hunters and snowmobilers beyond October 15. For now the Ritters are concentrating on the camping season and helping everyone to enjoy their vacations.

Eagle Cliff Campground is located at 35455 State Highway 16, Lanesboro, Minn. The phone number is (507) 467-2598. The website is www.eagle-cliff.com. To view additional photos of Eagle Cliff Campground visit the Facebook page of the Fillmore County Journal.

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