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Finding Minnesota: Floating Cabins On Lake Vermilion

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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TOWER, Minn. (WCCO) — As we get into the warm summer months, many of us will head out for a lakeside getaway up north. But instead of booking a cabin next to the water, some people vacation on the water.

Houseboats are available to rent on many of the large northern lakes, including Vermilion, Leech, Rainy and Crane.

On Lake Vermilion, Chuck Bystrom and his family have been renting out houseboats for more than three decades. The boats are tied up at the shore from sundown to sunset, but then free to roam the giant lake during the day.

“You’re not just at one resort cabin,” Bystrom said. “You can travel to 50, 60 different campsites on the lake.”

Bystrom and his wife, LeeAnn, operate Vermilion Houseboats. Ashley is the oldest of his three daughters and is now vice president of the company.

“I’ve been on houseboats from the day I was born,” she said.

The family’s fleet is now at 15 boats, with many of them able to handle groups of 12 to 14 guests. Smaller boats are recommended for two to four people.

“We get the business people, we get the mom and pa with all the kids,” said Chuck Bystrom. “Oh, we’ve had a few rock stars on the boats too.”

Two years ago, ZZ Top was playing at a local casino and chose a houseboat for their weekend stay on Vermilion. Bystrom said the rock group didn’t make him nervous at all.

“No,” he said, “they basically just wanted it to sleep in.”

Lake Vermilion offers more than 1,200 miles of shoreline and 365 islands.

“You’ve got 40,000 acres that you can travel and use throughout the whole lake,” Bystrom said.

It’s a business that often requires round-the-clock attention, but with a workplace like this, Bystrom can’t complain.

“It’s been my life,” he said. “I love it.”

Renting one of the Vermilion houseboats for a weekend — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — runs anywhere from $870 to $3,600 depending on the size of the boat. The cost is usually split several ways. Weekly rates are available as well.

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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