A Historic Wisconsin Destination: Bent’s Camp

Hailey Rose

June 9, 2022

 Bent’s Camp is situated right in the heart of the Cisco Chain of Lakes on Maime Lake in the center of the fishing action, holding many fishing stories throughout the span of its history dating back to the 1800s. Bent’s Camp was first established in 1896 creating many pieces of history that lie within the lodge, cabins, location, and more. Let’s dig up the historical roots of this resounding resort!

Bent’s Camp’s Origins


Photo Credit: Bent’s Camp Resort

Bent’s Camp was established in 1896 by Charles Bent, an avid outdoor enthusiast of sport fishing and hunting. He created the resort to preserve the Northwoods in all its glory for all to love and enjoy as much as he did. Since its establishment, it has been seen as a fantastic fishing attraction and still is today.
In 1906, the lodge restaurant was built for many different purposes but mainly to serve food to the fishing visitors who heard of the famous waters. In this era, the Bent family served fresh food, including vegetables they planted, grew, and harvested themselves from their handmade gardens. Today, Bent’s Camp holds itself to the highest standard when it comes to food, crafting delicious dishes in honor of the original Bent family’s lodge restaurant such as their handcrafted pizzas, sandwiches, and famous fish fry.
Two cabins, in particular, are rich in Bent’s Camp’s history called the Vair House and Caboose. The Vair House took its name from a woman named Mrs. Vair, who leased this cabin from Bent’s Camp through an American plan. An American plan allowed her to rent this cabin and eat all 3 hearty meals a day at Bent’s Camp. She had a lease with Roy Benedict, who owned Bent’s Camp at the time, for 50 years. As she got older, a man by the name of William McKinnon heard the lease was coming up and wanted to buy it out early and gain her property including the cabin. Bent’s Camp named the cabin Vair House in honor of her. 
In the Vair House, there was no kitchen since it wasn’t necessary given the American plan, encouraging guests to eat at the restaurant. When William McKinnon purchased her lease in 1972, he had a kitchen built across the swamp named Caboose. He loved trains and stained the cabin red to mimic this love of his. In order to access the Caboose, he added a road through the swamp, calling it the causeway. Since then, Bent’s Camp has remodeled both cabins for guests to stay in and experience the original charm the resort holds.

Fishing the Infamous Cisco Chain of Lakes

Photo Credit: Bent’s Camp Resort

The Cisco Chain of Lakes consists of 15 immaculate lakes. Dating back to before the 1800s, these lakes were not connected but that didn’t slow down the Chippewa tribes. They used to portage the Cisco Chain of Lakes by canoe! The tribes made this incredible journey to fish these prestigious lakes because they found it was a honey hole for fishing. As word traveled about this fishing hotspot, past president Eisenhower even visited on several occasions to fish all species the chain holds including walleye, northern pike, bass, panfish, and most famously, muskies. 
Dick Rose, the founder of Discover Wisconsin and local guide in the Northwoods area, once guided Dr. William Pivar to the Michigan State record musky on the Chain in the 80s! This recorded class musky weighed in at 45 pounds on Thousand Island Lake on July 26, 1980.
The story goes that Pivar and local guide Dick Rose hadn’t caught anything the entire afternoon on the Cisco Chain and time was ticking. Pivar made a decision to switch to a lighter outfit without a leader attached. About 2 minutes later, throwing a Believer lure, Pivar hooked this record class musky. After a five-minute fight, he landed this trophy fish. Many say that the next Michigan state record fish will come out of these lakes.

Legacy of Discover Wisconsin

Photo Credit: Bent’s Camp Resort

Dick Rose started Discover Wisconsin, a tourism show promoting the great state of Wisconsin. Within the episodes, Dick Rose toured and participated in the most famous and featured destinations and activities throughout the state. Though, the activity he loved most was fishing, especially on the Cisco Chain of Lakes.
After a long day on the water, he always stopped by Bent’s Camp Resort, the go-to local hangout still today, where fishermen and women relax, enjoy delicious food, and tell their greatest fishing stories from a day out on these famous waters.
Find out more about Bent’s Camp and plan your next relaxing vacation or fishing adventure in the Northwoods and add to the legacy of history it holds!

Bent’s Camp is rooted deep in history, especially for those who love the outdoors as Charles Bent once did! The resort still holds its original charm and visitors are able to stay in the two most historic cabins on the property, the Vair House and Caboose! Since the beginning discovery of the Cisco Chain by Chippewa tribes, the fishery continues to thrive and holds the genetics for the next Michigan state record musky. Bent’s Camp has a legacy to carry forward, not only of the Michigan State record musky guided by Dick Rose but Dick’s creation of Discover Wisconsin, featuring the beautiful Bent’s Camp.

Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.

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