Shady Roost History
To understand the beauty and history of Shady Roost Lodge, one must go back to nearly the dawn of time when the rocks that now form the breathtaking landscape were far below the earth’s surface. Millions of years of glacier activity created Lake of the Woods; and Shady Roost is situated on but one of the over 14,500 islands that lie in the waters of the massive Lake. In addition to the ancient bedrock, the end of the last ice age paved way for the development of the lush green boreal forest that covers over 60% of Canada. It is the geology, the hospitality, and most defiantly the fishing that lures visitors to our shores from around the world.
Shady Roost is located in Sabaskong Bay along the eastern shores of Lake of the Woods in Nestor Falls, Ontario. Although the area has been home to human activity for over 8,000 years, it was first introduced to the world in 1688 by the French explorer, Jacques de Noyon. Due to the abundance of fur-bearing animals, the lake soon became a critical trade route during the booming fur-trade; and, by the late 19th Century the Lake had also become famous for its fishing.
A fisherman’s dream, Lake of the Woods in its entirety has over 65,000 miles of shoreline; most of which are located along narrow channels, long bays, and islands. Best known for the vast and massive walleye and muskie, Lake of the Woods is also home to northern pike, perch, lake trout, crappies and large & smallmouth bass. Many researchers believe that Lake of the Woods could very well produce the next world record muskie!
Sixty-five miles north of the border towns of Fort Frances, Ontario and International Falls, Minnesota, the island that is now known as Shady Roost caught the eye of Guy and Glenn Sensiba in 1924 while they were on their second fishing adventure to Lake of the Woods. His lifelong passion for fishing and the astonishing amount of muskie in the lake led Guy, a resident of Chicago, to ask his guide how to go about purchasing the beautiful wooded island they were passing by which was set only a few hundred yards from the mainland. He learned that in order to promote sportsman’s use of the area versus commercial development, the Canadian government would only sell five acres to each individual. That same year, Guy purchased five acres of the island and his brother, Glenn, purchased the remaining four acres the following year. They called it Sensiba Island.
The first cabin was constructed in 1925 and consisted only of an open living space for sleeping. The next winter, a kitchen was added, next a stove and chimney. The upkeep of the island was a result of a group effort, as it became custom for each guest to spend a few hours each day cutting down dead timber and clearing brush away. And then in the winter months, only the finest pine and poplar logs were hauled over the ice for future construction. The breathtaking beauty and seclusion of the rock and timber island led to the famed bachelor, hunter, and fisherman, Otto Quetsch, to dub the island Shady Roost; a name that is still in place today… nearly a century later.
The start of the increasing popularity of Shady Roost came when the second cabin was constructed in the early 1930’s. Captivated by the stories and curious to experience firsthand the apparent attraction of the island that kept their husbands going back year after year, traveling the 800 miles from Chicago, the heretofore excluded wives convinced the men that it was high time to set up accommodations suitable for the ladies! This started a trend of families that would travel from as far away as California or New York, to experience both the peace and excitement the island of Shady Roost had to offer.
And so went the progress that has continued for the better part of the last century to build what today is considered one of the best maintained and equipped camps in the area. Generations of families have devoted their time and energy into building a camp that has been and continues to be a place where people will travel thousands of miles, just to get a taste of the great Canadian wilderness and Lake of the Woods.
The Sensiba brothers had both passed away by 1950 when the island was then purchased by, William Haag, Sensiba’s brother-in-law. Shady Roost stayed in the Haag family for the next thirty years, where it was then sold to Pennzoil, which later became Shell Oil Company. After twenty-four years of operating the camp and introducing thousands of new guests from around the world (many who still come today), Shell Oil had decided it was time to let go of Shady Roost.
And so, 2004 marks the year that the current owner, Mike Givens, the Minnesota Wendy’s franchisee, purchased Shady Roost Lodge. In 2010, Rod Burwell joined the ownership. Givens and Burwell both have been taken by the same beauty and serenity that the first inhabitants, Guy and Glenn Sensiba were drawn to. They are committed to continue to improve the island and are proud to offer a retreat that provides pure secluded relaxation, outstanding fishing, and a top-notch staff that quickly become lifelong friends to each guest. The island has grown into the 21st Century equipped with fully modern cabins, wireless internet and all the essentials that we need in today’s world.
The world class fishing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the experience of staying at Shady Roost Lodge. One only has to sit on the dock in the early morning watching the sun rise over the trees, or listen to the waves strike against the ancient bedrock shorelines to be taken away to a moment when time moved slower, a time when people lived off and learned from the land, a time when the planet formed the rare beauty of the island we call Shady Roost.
A Souvenir of Shady Roost Lodge; Guy C. Sensiba.