Written by Margaret Kurth
The Early Years
Rus and Irene Hull originally bought the property for Hull’s Resort in 1944 and owned it until 1970. The resort is located on the north shore of the east arm of the lake. Rus was a great carpenter and built several cabins for the resort over the years, then replacing some of those with larger, more modern cabins. He also built a recreation building and a combined shop and fish-cleaning building that he aptly named the “Fish Surgery.” The early cabins had no running water, and the guests shared a shower house. There were four modern housekeeping cabins in use in 1970, with at least one boat provided with each cabin. A pontoon was available to guests at no charge. A copy of the 1960s brochure for Hull’s Resort on Potato Lake is shown here.
Birch Retreat Resort
In 1970, the resort was purchased by Jim and Marianne Potratz, who changed the name to Birch Retreat Resort. They were summer residents until 1982, when they retired to the lake, and they continue to operate the resort 50 years later. When the Potratz family purchased the resort, it was considered mainly a fishing resort. Within a few years, it had become more of a family resort, with more emphasis on beach and relaxation, though certainly fishing remained an important activity for many guests. Over the years, some of the original property was sold to resort customers. The remaining three cabins are currently leased on a seasonal basis.
Remnants of the Old Bemidji Trail, which once connected Park Rapids to Bemidji, have been found on the property. Rus Hull recounted early memories, including when County Road 40 was an old log/corduroy road. In the early 1900s, the Sawyer family purchased property near what was to become the resort. Sawyers logged that area at the time when other logging companies were logging other area properties in and around Potato Lake. Members of the Sawyer family continue to own property near Birch Retreat Resort.
Jim Potratz passed away in 2019, and he was honored at the 2019 Potato Lake Association (PLA) Annual Meeting with a plaque recognizing his many years of service to the PLA. He and his wife were also past recipients of the Walter Ringer Potato Lake Stewardship Award.
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