Near the heart of Lake Sakakawea sits what is said to be one of North Dakota’s best-kept secrets.
Before the blizzard last week, KX News journeyed to what once was a small-town high school but now has been transformed into a unique vacation experience.
Riverdale High School was built in 1948 in a town that was developed for the contractors and engineers that built the Garrison Dam.
After it was closed in 1992, husband and wife Jane and Lee Bertsch, of Bismarck, had a vision and started renovating the building to become a hotel lodge.
They opened the building to the public in 2008 and are celebrating 14 successful years of business this month.
“We took an old building that they were going to tear down, and this is in a resort town, obviously, next to Lake Sakakawea. So we are very fortunate to be able to save this. We are one of four in the country that took an old school and converted it to either a bar and grill or a hotel,” said Lee Bertsch, co-owner of the Riverdale High Lodge.
The Riverdale High Lodge has been transformed from a normal small-town high school to a themed hotel, event center and restaurant.
And it is anything but ordinary.
While keeping the heart of the building where teenagers once walked the halls, the 30-room stay has been modernized and has held numerous concerts, reunions, weekend getaways and weddings with over 500 guests in their coliseum.
“We do all kinds of stuff. We have football camps, and basketball camps, just last week we had an auction. It’s so close to the lake, world-class fishing, get a lot of salmon fishermen, get a lot of ice fishermen during the winter. So it’s unique, it’s different,” said Bertsch.
You’re able to live out your youth in the gymnasium, on the basketball court and fitness center.
And if outdoor activities are more your speed, a few steps from the lodge is Lake Sakakawea: a great place to fish, hunt and go boating.
But what some lodgers and locals say they look forward to most, is the bar and grill inside.
“We were actually written up in the food network magazine about eight years ago, nine years ago. We serve very, very good steaks, ribeyes, prime rib, whiskey sirloins with butter garlic,” said Bertsch.
The husband-and-wife duo says they are always busy but wouldn’t have it any other way.
He hopes that more people from around North Dakota can experience what the small town has to offer.
“You need to come up and take a look at the tailraids, look at the lake. Come up for the weekend, go fishing, or just go boating, or just swimming. I just think that it’s, even if a getaway for the weekend in a tent or a camper, anything, they gotta try it out,” said Bertsch.