Arrowhead Resort & Motel: The Iowa Legacy Continues

By Ben Leal

The sun is rising on Crooked Pine Lake in Nestor Falls, Ontario Canada. Peering out over the lake there is a fine mist hanging over the water, illuminating the warm moist air. Birds are singing their morning songs, welcoming a new day. Across the bay an angler makes his way across the lake, cutting the glass calm water and stopping to make his first cast. A new day…a new dawn…a new beginning.

In 1981 Clyde and Decie Mason, lifelong residents of Iowa purchased the resort from William Losee, also from Iowa. For over 34 years this great summer destination has had close ties to Iowa and for many it’s a home away from home. The Mason’s daughter Sheryl and her husband Denny Reynolds helped at the camp full time following their retirement. Denny, Sheryl, Clyde and Decie, all have seen families start a tradition there at Arrowhead. As time has gone by they have seen children grow up, start families of their own and bring their children up.

“Needless to say the 32 years of Arrowhead in our family was a labor of love, hard work and making so many friends”, said Reynolds. “When the McCleerey’s offered to purchase the resort, we could not have thought of a better option but to pass Arrowhead on to family and friends who have been coming up here for so many years.”
2014 marked a new beginning for the well known destination as Monte and Tammy McCleerey from Norwalk Iowa took over the reins as the new owners. For many Iowan’s this has been a summer destination for years and the traditions have been passed down for generations.

The Beginnings
The McCleerey’s had met Clyde and Decie Mason at the Des Moines swap meet 24 years ago, but had already booked a trip to Canada that year. “On our way back we stopped at the resort and Clyde took us on a tour, showing us everything that the resort had to offer. A month later we booked for the next year”, said Monte McCleerey. Like many Iowan’s that have visited Arrowhead, that first year was not the last visit for the McCleerey’s. Monte’s parents, Tom and Karla McCleerey have also made regular visits for the last 23 years.

“We’ve always loved Nestor Falls, specifically Arrowhead because it had something for all of us”, continued McCleerey, “great fishing, a nice friendly family atmosphere, and beautiful views no matter where you were.” The McCleerey’s both worked in the corporate world and found that their time at Arrowhead was a way to unwind and relax and then go back home re-energized. Both Monte and Tammy love the outdoors and it had been a dream of Monte’s to one day own a resort. “We both enjoy working with people and being outdoors, he continued. “When Clyde approached us about purchasing the resort, we knew it was meant to be.”

Home Away from Home
For many long time guests, Arrowhead Resort and Motel has become a place to gather annually and touch base with an extended family that not only includes Iowa, but surrounding States in the mid-west. For long time guest Dave Dennis, this was truly home.
Dave’s wife Theresa had made arrangements for Dave to spend summers at the resort following his retirement. “This is my 16th summer at the camp”, said Dennis. “But we started coming up initially for just a week at a time in 1984.” Theresa mentioned that they would camp in Ontario’s provincial parks for two weeks at a time during the summer. One day they drove by and took a tour of the camp and booked a week for the following year. “We camped one week and then stayed here the next week. That was the last time we camped,” Theresa Dennis said laughing. “No more camping for this lady!”

Dave said “this place has always been like family. Ask a question and you’ll get help and that hasn’t changed in all the years we’ve been coming up here.” Dave and his wife spent summers in cabin 12, right off the main drive as you head to the office. Sitting on a pole by the cabin is a sign that says, “Old Fisherman Crossing” and below that another saying “Bass angler parking only. Violators will be hooked.”

The summer of 2014 would be Dave’s final visit to his home away from home. On October 26th he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. “I remember coming up to the camp and asking about Dave,” said McCleerey. “At times he’d be there at the same time I was and others he’d have gone back home for a week. He was never a stranger to anyone. Folks that came up even for just a day or two would always seek out Dave for an update”.

Dave Dennis will be missed by many of his Arrowhead family members this coming season. I for one will always remember his smiling face, standing on the deck of cabin 12 as I drove in to the resort for the very first time. I waved and shouted “how’s it going”? He waved back and laughing said, “I’m getting the cabin cleaned up! My wife’s coming up this weekend!”

More than a Vacation
Dave’s love of Arrowhead is shared by countless other guests from all across the country. This resort has special ties to Iowa and for many many years, families have started a tradition and for generations they continue to return.

I met long time Iowa residents Doyle and Kathy Witt during my first visit to Arrowhead. “We’ve been coming up here for 25 years”, he said. “It’s a great place to come and relax. We come for two weeks at a time.” Other long time visitors offered quick testimonials. “My family and I have been coming up to Arrowhead for 15 years now.” Another stated, “I’ve been coming up since before the Mason’s became owners. I introduced my boys to fishing at Arrowhead and now 32 years later they’re taking their families up.”

Marv and Sue Carlson offered this thought. “We have enjoyed Arrowhead Resort for the past 34 years and are planning our 35th summer, which will be for eleven weeks from late May to early August.  If you want excellent fishing (walleye, northern, bass, crappie, perch, musky and lake trout from nearby Crow Lake) there is not a better Resort than Arrowhead.  Relaxation, friendly guests, friends, outstanding cabins and motel accommodations and great friendly new owners, Tammy and Monte McCleerey beginning their second year, we are looking forward to the summer of 2015.”

Moving Forward
“We’ve met so many interesting and genuinely warm hearted people our first year”, noted McCleerey. “We can truly see why everyone has refereed to Arrowhead as being a part of their family”. Some of the things that were most important to get done in the first year according to the McCleerey’s was to get beds replaced, upgrading the gas pump system due to new Ontario fuel laws, and replacing roofs on the cabins. “Our goal is to keep making improvements each and every year”, he said.

Monte has years of experience fishing the lakes in Nestor Falls. “I think the guests really appreciate being able to “talk” fish and hear what Monte has to say or hear what tips he has to offer”, mentions Tammy McCleerey. “We especially enjoy helping the younger generation appreciate the love of fishing.” As the first season wore on they made every effort to touch base with each guest, getting to know them a bit more.

The resort has enjoyed visitors from all over the United States and Canada. Arrowhead Resort and Motel is in great hands with the McCleerey’s. This small piece of heaven is easily within a day’s drive from Des Moines, and as many fellow Iowans’ have attested to, a great place to visit and start some family traditions knowing your are in care of a piece of Iowa across the border!

The sun sets on yet another day at Arrowhead Resort & Motel. A fire is lit up by the gazebo and anglers, young and old alike, share near misses, big fish caught and lost from the day’s adventure. Off in the distance a loon sings her song as if to say…”goodnight, tomorrow’s a new day”.

Tight lines all!