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River’s Edge Lodge and Outfitters becomes ‘a hub for the community’
Outdoor activities in the Northwoods are seemingly endless, yet much of it can go undiscovered for those not prepared or equipped for the adventure. Opened in November 2019, River’s Edge Lodge and Outfitters in Manitowish Waters is seeking to change that roadblock with its array of services.
Co-owning the business with his fiancée Renae, Chris McMurray hails from Madison, but has strong ties to the Northwoods. McMurray said he always had it in the back of his mind to open a bike shop, and watching the bike trail systems in the Northwoods develop over the years, the location on US Highway 51 between Manitowish Waters and Mercer, was an ideal spot for what he envisioned. The location was previously Hawk’s Nest Outfitters.
“We started the process of rethinking what this could be and really needed for it to be more than just a canoe and kayak rental, we wanted it to be a hub for the community, a place where you can congregate and hang out,” McMurray said of the dog-friendly lodge.
McMurray did some cosmetic work including building the custom railings outside to finishing the fireplace and chimney that is a centerpiece of the interior. He built the end tables in the lodge out of repurposed wood from old signage and kept some of the old photos to bring the history and heritage back into the space.
McMurray researched the history of the location, much of which he plans to incorporate back into the landscape.
River’s Edge Lodge also offers beer and wine, as well as nonalcoholic beverages and light snacks. McMurray encourages adventurers to stop in after their experience to relax and enjoy the community environment he hopes to grow.
He said he welcomes community input on the future of the business. If someone asks to camp on the property, McMurray will look into it to see if that’s an option. If someone wants a dog sled team to take them out to a campsite in the winter, McMurray will see what he can do. The “what ifs” the community suggests are taken seriously, since the community knows best about what it wants.
“Then everybody gets some little piece of ownership of the place and it becomes ‘our place’ and not just ‘my place,’” McMurray said. “And that feels better, to have some sort of community investment in this thing. We have a ton of opportunity and we may or may not be seizing all of it.”
Situated right on the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail System and with easy access to Manitowish River, Turtle Flambeau Flowage or Manitowish Chain of Lakes, River’s Edge provides more than just equipment rentals. River’s Edge provides the experience of adventuring right here to the Northwoods.
In addition to offering rentals of tubes, kayaks, canoes, bikes and e-bikes, River’s Edge offers gear rentals and provisions, including camping gear, for those who want the whole experience without the worry.
“We are really promoting more expedition-type outings, so putting people out on the flowage for multiple days and bike-packing is another aspect of things we are going to be doing,” McMurray said. “We’re in the perfect location for all of these types of adventures.”
For those who want to go on multiple day trips without worrying about food and supplies, River’s Edge will be able to deliver all the gear necessary to each campsite along a trip, ranging from drop-off of canoes and kayaks to boxes of supplies.
Adventuring with River’s Edge doesn’t stop with the end of the warmer months. Snowshoe rentals are also available, and McMurray encourages the community to give winter camping a try. The lodge will continue to be open, and the snowmobile trail is just across Hwy. 51.
The website also provides tips and tricks to read up on before heading out on an adventure, including interactive maps to help those new to the experience become more acclimated before and during their adventure. Also teased on the web are guided adventures for those more comfortable going out with an experienced guide.
“Our hope for the place is that it is welcoming and people feel comfortable being here and just hanging out,” McMurray said. “Hopefully people recognize that and feel comfortable doing that.”
River’s Edge Lodge and Outfitters is at 263 S US Highway 51 in Manitowish Waters. For more information, visit www.riversedge mw.com, call 715-543-8070, email [email protected], or check out River’s Edge on Instagram and Facebook.
Emily Koester may be reached at [email protected]