If you page through the June issue of North Dakota Living, you’ll find a really nice article about Coteau des Prairies Lodge. Luann Dart, the author, did a great job of telling the background story of how the lodge came to be. We like that story.
North Dakota Living does not make their articles available online. We’d share a link if they did, instead we thought we would share the article here on our blog for you ‘out of staters’.
Coteau des Prairies Lodge melds comfort, charm
Like a grand bastion of peace and comfort, the Coteau des Prairies Lodge guards the northern ridge of the Coteau des Prairies in southeastern North Dakota, welcoming guests from atop the hill with both majestic views and intimate tours of the patchwork of prairie and farmland below.
“There are not very many facilities doing just exactly what we are. What we’re doing is extremely unique to the area. The fact that we are kind of out in the middle of nowhere is unique,” says Olivia (Breker) Stenvold, the fifth generation of Brekers to live in the area.
The Coteau des Prairies Lodge is, indeed, in the middle of a pasture, atop a hill where the plains and a ridge of rolling hills converge. The Breker farm is four miles away, while the nearest community of Rutland is about a 10-mile drive. Here, classic dining and North Dakota agriculture meld for a unique experience.
The log lodge with upscale comforts is the culmination of a dream of the Breker family who continue to farm and ranch in the area, and welcome guests with luxurious accommodations, hearty homemade meals and good old-fashioned hospitality.
Building a dream
The Coteau des Prairies Lodge, which celebrated its grand opening in June 2013 and is served by Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, is constructed of steel and North Dakota pine hefted into place by the Breker family and friends who first envisioned the project years ago.
It’s a family business: Joe and Patty Breker, who farm nearby, are majority owners. Their daughter, Olivia, manages the lodge, while their son, Phillip, who lives in Minnesota, handles the social media. Joe’s brother, Eugene, manages business events, and seven other family and friends also invested in the project.
The pasture hill was a favorite spot for the family, particularly after patriarch Clarence Breker purchased the pastureland in 1978 from the Norby family. The Breker family describes catching a cool breeze on the hill during a hot summer day or hunting for crocus flowers in the bloom of spring.
Then Joe, Clarence’s youngest son, brought a college friend, John Hanson, to the Norby pasture hilltop.
“As the two sat together in the native prairie grass on the exact site where the lodge sits today, John expressed to Joe that he should be thinking about building a lodge at the site because the Norby pasture was, in his estimation, the ‘second most beautiful place in the state.’ John didn’t realize at the time what he had done. He planted the seed of a dream that would take more than 30 years to grow and come to fruition,” the family describes on the lodge’s website.
As years passed, Joe married and started raising his own family, farming the surrounding countryside and continuing to take visitors to the Norby pasture hilltop.
Then, in 2010, Joe announced to his family it was time to build the lodge. That old college friend, John Hanson, now owned Logging Camp Ranch in southwestern North Dakota and he cut and milled more than 1,000 logs from more than 400 trees for the lodge. The family designed the lodge, then turned their sketches over to Horizon Custom Contracting in Moorhead, Minn., who did the architectural drawings and worked with an engineering firm on the structural details.
The result, which took two years to complete, is a prairie refuge.
Sharing the space
Enter the great room, with its 35-foot ceiling and soaring windows, where the log trusses tower overhead. A balcony is lined with metal work made from antique dump rakes, and the rake wheels were fashioned into chandeliers.
“We tried to incorporate older farm equipment into the structure of the building,” Olivia says.
The great room is the heart of the lodge, where everything from dining to dancing takes place.
“Depending on what’s going on in the lodge, it functions in a lot of different ways,” Olivia shares. “We tried to think of all scenarios to keep the space as functional as possible.”
Ten bedrooms, including a fully handicapped-accessible bedroom as well as a three-room suite, are available for guests. A lower-level conference room can be used for business meetings or as a family theater room.
Log staircases take visitors through the four levels of the lodge. A fourth-floor loft includes a living area with a TV and ping-pong tables.
“It’s a pretty unique space because you’re right up in those log trusses. You get to see just how huge they are,” Olivia says. “A lot of times, that’s where all the kids go to hang out.”
And, of course, the view rules. A lookout perch also offers a 360-degree view from high atop the lodge.
A commercial kitchen connected to the great room offers unique dining experiences for visitors. The Breker family creates meals based on the guests’ requests, or guests can use the kitchen themselves.
The family takes pride in offering Breker beef, or story beef, which is raised and finished locally. The high-quality, dry-aged beef has direct ties to the ranch, Olivia says.
The lodge also has food events, which have ranged from a dinner served with local wines to a one-pot seafood boil.
Families rent the lodge for reunions, weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Scrapbookers and quilters have also used the lodge as a retreat.
With the lodge experience, the Breker family also offers farm tours.
“Education is really important to us, especially with how important it is to know where your food comes from,” Olivia says. “We get to educate others about farming and the daily life. It’s an opportunity for people to experience it firsthand.”
On the 2,500-acre Breker farm, where Joe raises wheat, corn, soybeans and specialty crops, along with cattle, urban dwellers can learn more about farm machinery and cattle, while other farmers can get intense range, crop or cattle tours discussing rotational grazing, cover cropping, tiling or farm technologies.
Visitors can also get a history on the history or geography of the area or hike across the pasture and visit the nearby Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge. Hay rides or sleigh rides are also available for guests.
With cattle often grazing just outside the doorstep, the Coteau des Prairies Lodge brings visitors to the heart of North Dakota agriculture, courtesy of the Breker family.
*Article published in the June 2014 issue of North Dakota Living Magazine, a publication of NDARECs (North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives).
*Author: Luann Dart – a freelance writer and editor who lives near Elgin.