News from the Greater Munising Area: The Buckhorn Resort: Family owned and operated since 1933
Nestled in the heart of the Hiawatha National Forest and overlooking beautiful Hovey Lake is the Buckhorn Resort, a popular year-round destination and family-owned business since 1933.
After following a pipe dream and purchasing the resort in 2012, Ben and Karla Cooper – along with their children, Nicole and Jon Pacl, Sharon and Brandon Hollingshead, Andy, and Rachel, are now in their 10th season of owning and operating the Buckhorn.
“Karla and I put ourselves through school by working in the campground industry and we really enjoyed it,” Ben said. “We both ended up going into education and taught in Southeast Wisconsin for years.”
Still, Ben and Karla reminisced about the summers they spent working at various campgrounds and dreamed of owning something similar one day.
“Our kids were growing up and we thought if we didn’t get serious about it and make an effort to find the right property, it might not happen,” Ben said. “We didn’t want to have any regrets. So, we looked into a number of campgrounds in Northern Wisconsin. That was kind of our comfort zone at the time, but we kept vacationing in the U.P. any chance we could get.
“Karla was born in Munising and her parents were raised here, so we’ve been coming to the area for vacations and to see family since the early 80s. Karla’s parents had a camp, so every chance we had, we’d come up to four-wheel, snowmobile, all that sort of stuff,” he continued. “And then it kind of hit us: ‘Why not look into the Buckhorn?’ It had been for sale for a little while at that point. So, long story short, we bought it and haven’t looked back since.”
First opened by Louie Cannon as a general store and trading post in the early 1930s, the Buckhorn Resort now comprises a 20-unit motel, two lodges perfect for families or groups, and a spacious restaurant and bar that seats 100 people. Though the Buckhorn has undergone several renovations over the years, the old fireplace in the bar area and wooden beams in the building are true to the original structure.
During its 88-year-run, ownership of the Buckhorn has changed hands only five times. In 1948, Walter and Helene Hutchinson purchased the property, selling it to Carroll and Beth Beckwith in 1961. The Buckhorn would stay with the Beckwith family for 51 years, as Dick and Lynn Beckwith purchased the resort from Dick’s parents (Carroll and Beth) in 1983.
According to a November 1992 article published by The Munising News, during the time Dick and Lynn owned the resort, a kitchen and dining area was put in, the bar was expanded, and a few trees on the hillside between the bar and Hovey Lake were cut down to create “the million-dollar view” that’s admired to this day. The motel – formerly known as the Vacationers Motel, was moved to the property in 1992.
Ben said the “character of the property and all the stories that came with it” was a big draw for the Coopers. Though, his favorite thing about obtaining the business has been the opportunity to work with family.
“Three of our four adult children are now actively involved in the operations,” Ben said, noting his youngest is still in college. “Being able to work with family has just been fantastic and the people we’ve met along the way have been wonderful.”
The Buckhorn is within a 15-minute drive from downtown Munising and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The property is adjacent to Alger County’s world-class ORV and snowmobile trail system, as well. In fact, when snowmobiles were first made in the early 60s, the Buckhorn became one of the best-known destinations for winter enthusiasts.
A framed article from the 90s with a headline that reads “Buckhorn Selected as Best Snowbelt Pitstop” hangs near the side door inside the restaurant. Hundreds of thousands of sportsmen voted in the contest, the article states.
Even though the Buckhorn is popular among tourists, it’s always been a great spot for locals to grab a bite to eat with friends or after cruising through the woods or on a trail.
“It’s the local support that keeps any business open and our local friends are the reason we can stay operate year-round,” Ben said.
Like all businesses – particularly restaurants and bars, the Buckhorn was not untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, they’ve been able to keep their staff and, aside from the initial shutdown, remain open amid the challenges.
“One of the biggest accomplishments is that we’ve been able to retain our staff through everything,” Ben said. “As soon as the state said we can open for takeout after we had to close for a while, we started bringing people back in immediately.”
With record-breaking visitation at the Pictured Rocks park last year, the Buckhorn is anticipating another busy year. Reservations are up at the motel so far as people have already begun planning their summer vacations.
The restaurant, which has expansive lunch and dinner options, including sandwiches, wraps, burgers, broasted chicken, fresh Lake Superior whitefish and perch, and so on, is open every day except Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
“No reservations are necessary,” Ben said. “Just come on out, have a meal, and enjoy the beautiful view.”
The Buckhorn Resort is located at N3919 Buckhorn Drive, Munising, and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day. For more information, visit www.buckhornresort.com or the Buckhorn’s Facebook page.
Editor’s note: Jaymie Depew is the communications and special project assistant for the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority and Munising Visitors Bureau.