That silent sports bounty combines with Watervale’s sense of old-timey tradition: Since the Great Depression, Watervale has remained pretty much unchanged, and accommodations still purposefully exclude phones and televisions. People attracted to Watervale’s techno-simplicity (other than the Wi-Fi, of course) and natural setting tend to love days of outdoor adventure.
Watervale provides many opportunities to take full advantage of the glories of nature. Canoes, kayaks and rowboats are available for use by guests, and a large outside activities area features soccer, racquetball, shuffleboard, tennis courts, a half basketball court, water volleyball, sand volleyball, tetherball and playground equipment.
Occasionally, the folks at Watervale come indoors, and for this purpose the casino building, which once held the market, post office and town hall, now houses foosball and Ping-Pong tables and plays host to Bingo contests, square dancing, educational presentations and yoga retreats.
It’s easy to recognize the Northern Michigan town of Watervale as it once was. The Inn, which was a boarding house for unattached loggers, now serves as single rooms with shared bathrooms, while the cottages that were the homes of married loggers comfortably sleep between four and 11 visitors. On weekends, guests gather in the dining room at the Inn for breakfast and dinner, all homemade using locally grown foods.
The commitment to tradition isn’t held by the Watervale family alone. The resort has been a perennial destination for families near and far for decades. “People come here and stay in the same cottage during the same week of the year for the past 30, 40 years,” Schmitt says. “They sit at the same table in the dining room. Things are very much the same. It’s a very grounding feeling to have your little corner of the world. It’s really nice to be able to count on it.
“For me, I have a very large extended family, so for my kids to be with their second and third cousins, most people would never even know they existed in this world. It is really grounding.” For Schmitt the extended family of Watervale has grown to also include the visitors who make this their regular summer getaway.
“People who are attracted to this place are probably like-minded. So it is, it’s a really neat thing,” she says, adding that providing this experience to visitors is important to her family. “In today’s world, to have that sense of tradition and sense of belonging and continuity—that doesn’t always exist. We have three, four and five generations of families that come here and that’s a really nice thing.”