The Book


Written by Neil Johnson
with Adam Swenson

Published by NLJ Books

Photography by Mark J Harlow,
Doug Ohman, and Scott Pederson

Hardcover, 240 pages
with over 1000 images



Order 2 or more and
receive free shipping.

If you would like your book(s) signed, please note names at checkout

Resorts of Minnesota takes the reader on a trip down memory lane, celebrating the people and the places in Minnesota that we all love so much.

Over the course of one year, the writers and the photographers drove tens of thousands of miles, shot over 20,000 images, and wrote over 75,000 words in an effort to do justice to the fine histories of these intimate, natural, and quirky resorts. The results are stunning.

To be clear, this is not a guide book to resorts: it is a book of stories. From "Left for Dead" to "Turning Down a Governor" and "You Can't Hurry Love" each chapter tells the fascinating tale of a place and its owners.

Instead of focusing on the big, brand name places, Resorts of Minnesota focuses on some of the smaller, family-run resorts that are among Minnesota's best-kept secrets.

So put some coffee on. Pull up a chair.

This is a trip worth taking.




"They may look similar with their tidy log cabins, rustic lodges, and easy lake access but Minnesota's resorts are as varied and colorful as the characters that run them. Neil Johnson has found some of the best, most interesting, and historic lodges in the state and takes us on a journey we all can enjoy from our armchairs."

—Jason Davis

Host and Executive Producer of On the Road With Jason DavisOn the Road With Jason Davis


"This is not a guide to Minnesota resorts. That's been done. Rather, Neil Johnson has touched on the heart of the matter, recalling those with leading roles in the grand performance we so cherish in Minnesota: going to the resort."

—Ron Schara

Host of Minnesota Bound, KARE 11Minnesota Bound, KARE 11

"Minnesota is known to be the land of 10,000 fishable lakes: at one point there seemed to be a resort on every one of them. The history of the resort business in Minnesota is legendary, and is well recounted in this fine work. Resort vacations have left so many positive memories for so many people. This book gets at the heart of what makes resorting in Minnesota so special."

—Al Lindner

Hall of Fame anglerHall of Fame angler

"I am so grateful to Neil Johnson for putting together a book that almost feels like a family album. Resorts were a big part of my growing up in Minnesota. Summers always included a week away when my family would rent a simple lake cabin "up north". During our stay, we often enjoyed getting to know the folks who owned the place. This book captures something I deeply cherish about Minnesota...something real and unpretentious—those beloved retreats which offer us the chance to reconnect with nature and each other, and the ever-present opportunity to make new friends."

—Peter Mayer

Folksinger and songwriterFolksinger and songwriter

"Having spent my entire career promoting (in part) resort tourism in Minnesota, it is great to see a work of this stature encompassing so much of the history and rich heritage of Minnesota resort properties. Stunning photography and a rich historical perspective complement the detailed storytelling, amusing anecdotes, and many fine interviews. As a father introducing the next generation to the outdoors, this book is a reminder to appreciate and embrace the family resort vacation, to help maintain its place in our nation's history."

—Roger Cormier

MidWest Outdoors TelevisionMidWest Outdoors Television


Neil Johnson


Neil was born and raised near Bemidji, Minnesota in the sprawling metropolis of Debs (population eight). As a young man growing up in the north woods, he learned the value of hard work while cutting wood, mowing lawns, and delivering papers. Neil moved to St. Paul in 1994 and began working in the corporate training industry, eventually becoming a director of sales. Neil’s experience in the field of professional development allowed him to work with and learn from some of the best minds in the business world. During that time he gave group presentations to over one thousand organizations, including Farmers Insurance, Wells Fargo, 3M, and Clear Channel. As an avid reader and a gifted writer, Neil loves a compelling story and has written several articles on faith and family, as well as the people and places of Minnesota. Neil currently resides in Hibbing, MN with his lovely wife Lora and their six young children.

Adam Swenson

Editor and Contributing Author

Adam Swenson is the owner of Swike Creative and a professional writer and editor with dozens of magazine features, numerous works of short fiction, and a book to his credit. He’s edited books for a number of Minnesota publishers and served as the managing editor for a regional lifestyle magazine for five years. He holds degrees in philosophy and theology from Bethel University.


Mark J. Harlow

Mark J. Harlow is a National Award Winning Photographer from Walker Minnesota. Mark takes great pride in photographing only truly wild animals, landscapes and black & whites. All of Mark’s photography is taken in Single Mode (one click). Mark does not believe in baiting or staging and shots. To see more of Mark’s incredible photography, please visit

Doug Ohman

Doug Ohman is a freelance photographer and popular public speaker. Doug has traveled throughout the upper Midwest photographing historic architecture. His work has been widely published in magazines, calendars and books. Over the past six years he has been working with the Minnesota Historical Society on the popular book series, “Minnesota Byways”. Recently, Doug completed a new book about the State Parks of Minnesota.

Doug has degrees in both Geography and History from the University of Minnesota. His interest in these subjects has translated well to his work as a photographer. Doug lives in New Hope, MN with his wife and son. He also has a daughter who is attending Northwestern College.

Scott Pederson

Scott Pederson grew up in Brainerd, Minnesota where he enjoyed cross country skiing and taking pictures. After a 15 year absence from his hometown and photography, he returned in 2004 to take on photographing interiors for Distinctive Properties of Minnesota. Since that time, he has branched out to include shooting portraits and weddings. He still skis when he has time.