Camping the dream – and creating an island campground paradise
As avid family campers, Chris and Jean Swaggert wanted to create an experience for others that incorporated everything they loved about camping. Escaping from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Spending quality time with their children. Creating family memories and traditions. Surrounding themselves with the fun, adventure and restoring powers of nature.
By lucky chance, they discovered a private island for sale in Lake Belle Taine between Park Rapids and Walker in the heart of Minnesota’s lake country. Reached by a narrow causeway and bridge, the island contained only four cabins and a lodge built by Finnish craftsmen — the remnants of a former resort and rumored retreat for bootleggers in the 1920s.
Best of all, the beach-ringed island was covered with towering pines, maples and birches – perfect for creating the large, secluded sites the Swaggerts envisioned. In 1959, they bought the island and chose the name Campers’ Paradise to reflect their dream of camping the way it was meant to be. Together, the young couple paced off each potential site and laid out the network of sandy roads to reach them.
The Swaggerts welcomed their first campers in 1960, although they’d only completed campsites on the east side of the island. That was just the beginning. Through the years, sites and amenities such as the ball field and electric hookups have been added and the causeway and bridge have undergone many renovations.
But what hasn’t changed is the peaceful beauty of the Island, the sparkling waters of Lake Belle Taine or the sheer pleasure of camping the way it was meant to be. Fifty years later, families that first came to the Island still share the Campers’ Paradise experience with the younger generations.
Sadly, Chris passed away in May 2008, and Jean followed him just a little over a year later in July 2009. But the couple left a legacy of a unique island campground to be enjoyed by campers for generations to come. Come to Campers’ Paradise and camp their dream.