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A History of Lake One-Ely Outfitters & Kawishiwi Lodge

Lake One Canoe Rentals & Kawishiwi Lodge Operators, Frank & Nicole Udovich

Kawishiwi Lodge’s 119 acres was originally purchased by John Zgonc in 1916. At the time, the Fernberg Road ended at Snowbank Lake, and all supplies were hiked in via the Snowbank trail, which skirted the Kawishiwi property. The first cabin rented (cabin 2) opened in 1924, and about 10 more a cabins were added over the next 15 years. Most of those early cabins are still in operation.

In the 1930’s, John was joined by his brother, Frank, and sister, Molly. By now, the Fernberg Road ended at the Lake One public access, and cabin 1 was being used as the Main Lodge. Guests would park at the public access, toot their car horns, and wait for John to motor over with a boat to pick them up. It is said that John blasted open the small channel that connects Kawishiwi’s bay and the Lake One Access part of the lake. This allowed boats and canoes to get through without having to portage. The blast tailings are still visible today.

The 50’s and 60’s brought great amenities to Kawishiwi. The resort received full power and the entire 18 miles of the Fernberg Road went from a beat up dirt road to the built up tarred drive it is today. Kawishiwi was one of the first resorts in the area to have full electrical power.

The 60’s and 70’s brought more change to Ely and Lake One. The Wilderness Act of 1964 and The Boundary Waters Wilderness Act of 1978 removed all motorboat traffic from many area lakes, including Lake One. Faced with the daunting task of running a “paddle-only” resort, Marge Zgonc (Frank’s wife), and the only living Zgonc, decided to sell to the U.S. Forest Service. After having tried to purchase the resort for nearly 10 years, Dr. Frank Udovich finally had his chance to buy the lodge and, indeed, outbid the government for Kawishiwi. The Forest Service’s parting words were, “Go ahead and have it Doc. We’ll buy it [Kawishiwi Lodge] cheap in a few years when you go out of business.” The first season certainly was a challenge with only about 10 guests staying in the lodge’s 17 cabins and canoeing not yet popular. Over the years, Dr. Udovich continued to practice dentistry and upgraded all the cabins with running water. Slowly, this great destination was reborn.

Today, Kawishiwi Lodge has become a family tradition for both the Udovich Family and guests. Many families continue to stay at Kawishiwi year after year, and all the Udovichs have worked the resort at one point or another.

Kawishiwi Lodge is currently operated by Frank Udovich, Jr. and his wife, Nicole. They enjoy living year-round on Lake One with their family. Our name “Kawishiwi” is an Ojibway word meaning "river full of beaver or muskrat houses".