Cabin Country: Island living in Minnesota

  • Updated: July 31, 2014 - 3:21 PM

Thanks to a lucky incident in 1912, three generations of the Lambert family have enjoyed summer holidays at this remote island on Lake of the Woods.

Lambert Island is one of just a handful of Minnesota islands on Lake of the Woods. It is a private island not only in title but in its very nature. We enjoy it today because of a fortuitous event involving my grandfather Fred Lambert. A young family of Irish immigrants had taken the wrong train and had no money to get to their destination of Warroad. A freight brakeman on the Great Northern Railway, Grandpa Lambert took the family to breakfast and gave them $5 to get to Warroad, which was a lot of money in 1921. As it is told by our family, that $5 was the best investment he ever made.

He later received an invitation to spend time with the Irish family’s relatives in the wilderness of the Northwest Angle islands. My grandfather fell in love with the rugged beauty and decided to homestead an uninhabited 20-acre island. My own father, Bob Lambert, spent his youth on this island, chinking the logs for the cabin and hauling up water from the granite rocks. I’ve spent my summers on this timeless island, too. For most of those years, there was no electricity — only kerosene lanterns to play cards — no phone, no running water and an outhouse in the woods. Fortunately, there was a mail drop every other day to an old post office on Oak Island. We traveled the 5 miles by boat to pick up any communication from civilization.

Now we welcome the respite from busy city life. Cellphones only work if you stand at the end of the dock with the right wind. While negotiating vacation time with an employer in Ohio, I told them I had family responsibilities on a remote wilderness island. The three interviewers didn’t believe my story and made me bring up Google Earth during the interview. Thank goodness Lambert Island was on the map!

Today, we value the privacy. All around me is blue sky, glistening water and islands. Once in a while I hear the drone of a far-off boat, reminding me that there are people up here, mostly weekend fishermen. There are trails throughout the island for exercise and observing the abundance of wildlife that make the island their summer home. We adapt to island living and the wildlife adapts to our intrusion.

After Mother Nature reclaimed the log cabin of my father’s youth, he and my grandfather built a humble summer-only cabin in 1948. The cabin is now a museum of antiques and cookbooks, mounted arrowheads and navigational charts. My Grandmother’s Depression glass chickens are nestled next to a flat-screen TV that receives one station. Our small cabin is filled with hand-carved cedar furniture crafted by a local islander. We now have electricity by underwater cable, but we don’t have cable TV. But who needs cable when the views look like a screen saver?


Tell us about your favorite hideout, be it a lakeside lodge or a primitive fire pit. E-mail your story along with photos to or submit online at Don’t forget your name, city of residence and the general vicinity of your cabin or campsite.


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