Four-season resort overcomes slow-developing natural disaster
A popular recreation spot in North Dakota battles unprecedented rising waters from Devils Lake; gets help from Bobcat skid-steer loader and attachments
For grounds maintenance and construction projects at Woodland Resort, owner Kyle Blanchfield depends on his Bobcat skid-steer loader and attachments.
A family-owned getaway called Woodland Resort in Devils Lake, N.D., has been in a battle with Mother Nature for nearly 20 years. Water levels in Devils Lake have risen nearly every year, up almost 30 feet since the early 1990s, swallowing homes, resorts and farmland along the popular lakeside. The lake’s surface area has quadrupled since the early 1990s to more than 200,000 acres.
Kyle Blanchfield and his wife Karin own and operate Woodland Resort in Devils Lake (population: 7,141) and have utilized a Bobcat® skid-steer loader and attachments to help protect their prized resort, which caters to visitors throughout the year.
“We’re a hunting, fishing and family vacation destination,” Blanchfield says, “and we cater to four different seasons.”
The property was purchased by Blanchfield’s grandfather in the 1940s and eventually Kyle purchased it from his parents in the mid-1990s. From four cabins when it opened in 1988, the campground has grown to include a restaurant, 29 cabins and 180 camp sites, according to Blanchfield. Additionally, the facility has a 96-slip marina and offers boat rentals.
“We offer guided fishing, guided hunting and fish house rentals, and we have a bait-and-tackle shop and store,” Blanchfield says. “We consider ourselves full-service.”
Family battles rising waterBecause of the rising water, the Blanchfield family has had to make significant adjustments and upgrades to its operation and offerings.
“Devils Lake is a closed-basin lake, which means anything that comes to the basin, rain or snow, stays here,” he explains. “It doesn't have a natural outlet until it gets about another four feet higher than it is now. It just compounded itself, significantly since the early 1990s. It’s wiped resorts off the map. We were lucky, in some respects, that we are on higher ground.
“We’ve had to bring in massive quantities of material, probably about 200,000 cubic yards of clay, to maintain ourselves. We had to redevelop part of our campground, move a lot of cabins and there was a lot of dirt work to do, much of it in tight quarters.”
A Bobcat S650 skid-steer loader with auger at Woodland Resort
The tight quarters are where his Bobcat loader has been instrumental in his success. Before there was a Bobcat dealership in Devils Lake, Blanchfield purchased his first Bobcat skid-steer loader in Grand Forks, N.D., in 2002.
“We had to learn to do more ourselves, because when you've got all of this work going on, you can’t always hire it out,” he explains. “When we got the first loader, I thought it was more elaborate than what we needed, but ever since we bought it, I've said this a million times, ‘I wouldn't own a resort without a Bobcat skid-steer loader,’ because we work it hard. It’s a critical piece of equipment for us.
“My biggest regret is that I didn't have one when I first started. We had old equipment and we did so much work by hand. It took us forever and we didn't understand the value of what Bobcat loaders could accomplish until we had one. We started from scratch, there was nothing here but a forest, and we had to clear and develop the property in an old-fashioned way. I’d never go back to that again.”
Improved visibility, comfortToday, Blanchfield owns an M-Series S650 skid-steer loader that he purchased from Bobcat of Devils Lake.
“The cab-forward design of the new loader has improved the visibility a lot, and the machine is very comfortable to operate,” he says. That’s important when he’s working next to cabins or trees, performing grounds maintenance tasks.
“I like the joystick controls, because if I’m in the machine all day, I can relax and let my hands do the work,” he says. “Also, the air conditioning is fantastic and it’s considerably quieter, too.”