For Bob and Sally Shope, eating Sunday brunch or dinner at the community’s bustling clubhouse, with its panoramic water view, and participating in several of the 50 clubs is just the lifestyle they were seeking when they moved from North Carolina in 2009. With a batch of grandchildren and great-grandchildren living nearby, Bob said, “this is where we will probably spend the rest of our lives.”
Speed limits of 15 and 25 mph reflect the slower pace of life found there, in contrast to the history of the land, which was in the crossfire of the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil War. Earlier, in Colonial days, the region was home to Germanna, a settlement of German immigrants founded by former Virginia Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood, who needed workers for his nearby iron mines. Gold mining thrived nearby in the early 19th century.
Lake of the Woods began in the late 1960s as a leisure-oriented getaway for weekend and seasonal use. The developers chose the site because of its deep natural valleys, ideal for creating stream-fed lakes once dams were built.
Jeff Flynn bought one of the first undeveloped lots in 1967 for $4,000 with a seven-year payment plan. That gave him camping privileges in the community and the opportunity to watch the lakes fill.
By 1976, when Flynn’s sons were 8 and 13, the family moved into a lakeside house. “We drove our kids to the front gate to catch the school bus,” said Flynn. “There were no schools within 15 miles then. Now, six school buses come through, and there are three schools close by.”
Flynn said his family took the pleasant setting for granted until one of his son’s college friends exclaimed: “You grew up here? This is the kind of place we go to for vacation!”
There are now 40 miles of paved roads and more than five miles of walking trails within the community. About two-thirds of the residents live there year-round.
Of 3,800 houses in Lake of the Woods, 850 front on one of two man-made lakes. The smaller lake, at 36 acres, is the domain of anglers and paddlers. The larger one — covering 536 acres and stretching almost three miles long, with about 13 miles of shoreline — includes eight sand beaches and two marinas, giving all residents easy access to the water.
Sailing, water-skiing and wave running are allowed, but meandering via pontoon boat or kayak seems to be residents’ primary type of water transportation.
The varied income levels in the community are reflected in the home prices, which range from $120,000 to over $1 million. Included are some original cozy cabins under 900 square feet, plus numerous bungalows, ramblers and contemporaries, many sporting wide decks. Each house seems to reflect a different builder and changing styles. “As you go along, you can see the decades,” said Sue Bielmeier, a two-year resident.