For many folks, the phrase “off-the-grid" conjures images of rustic shacks or tiny dwellings, stripped of all amenities. But off-grid living has come a long way. Need proof? Take a quick look around Loon Rapid’s Lodge, a Wisconsin resort that is powered completely independently of public utilities, and you'll see it's a shining example of just how comfy-cozy off-grid living can be. And while the idea of a fairytale, eco-friendly resort may feel new, this property's story begins decades ago, in the '90s.
Luke Boyd bought the property which now houses Loon Rapids Lodge in 1993 at the age of 17. He negotiated a land contract with the previous owner, and the next thing he knew, the space was his. Even as a teenager he had big aspirations for the plot. At that time, it was densely forested with access to the Oconto River, but had no road leading the way. His first step was to create a driveway. In 1998, construction of the first building, The Homestead began. Years later, another building named The Eagle's Nest was built. A third cabin is currently underway, which will complete the trio.
Caring about the environment has been a lifelong passion for Luke. He remembers doing his part even when he was young. “Sustainability has always been important to me," Luke says. "Even as a kid, I was cleaning up beaches and collecting trash. As I got older, protecting the environment became increasingly important. I have lived and traveled all over, often camping and backpacking, which has only made me appreciate our environment more. It felt natural to design and build a structure which was eco-friendly.”
When Luke became a landowner, he knew he wanted to transfer his passion into something special that he could enjoy with friends and family. This was the foundation of Loon Rapids Lodge.
The resort is an entirely off-grid, solar-based system with a backup generator. But his green ways don’t end there. All the appliances in the cabins are eco-friendly and require less energy than their conventional counterparts. Even the locations of the cabins play a role in reducing his impact on the environment. He chose the spots carefully, to ensure they disrupt the natural environment as little as possible. For many years the cabins used compost toilets, but that had to change when a city ordinance required him to install a septic system. Still, he stayed true to his mission by purchasing dual flushing toilets which save on water consumption. When possible, he uses trees milled from his own land as materials. The third cabin is being constructed out of trees that fell in a 2019 storm that knocked down hundreds of acres of forest.
Although the cabin is off-grid, it has most of the amenities of any other lodge. There are bathrooms with showers and tubs, large comfy bedrooms, TVs for entertainment and kitchens with all the supplies you’d need to prepare a feast–including refrigerators. For a small fee, guests can rent kayaks and tubes to float down the Oconto River which flows right in front of the lodge. When asked what advice he has to those hoping to begin an off-grid lifestyle, Luke says it all begins with research. “Check with your county first on what you can and cannot do," he says. "Find out about natural disasters and use fallen trees for lumber which are usually pennies on the dollar. Spend time staying at an eco-friendly home and get a feel for how everything works and what you like and do not like”. He also says it’s a good idea to work with like-minded individuals. One good place to start? Hire a builder or designer with a background in sustainability.