The Central Minnesota
Sustainable Development Plan



Our Story

Population:  532              

Median Age:  39.7

Median Income:  $32,249

Area:  2.05 square miles

Top Three Industries: Hospitality, Manufacturing, Construction



Located on the eastern shore of Serpent Lake, Deerwood takes its name from the many Whitetail deer that populate the area.  Deerwood was first platted in 1882 and petitioned to be recognized as an incorporated city in 1909. First known as Withington from 1871-1881, the name was changed after being confused with Worthington in southern Minnesota. 

 The fur trade first lured activity to the area, followed by logging the extensive pine forests and then with help from the Railroad Aid bill of 1857 and the Homestead Act of 1862, this area became enticing for farmers and accessible to those who wished to receive their 160 acres in return for living on and farming the land for five years. The area boomed as the Northern Pacific Railroad forged through the area expanding from Duluth through Brainerd, ever westward, on its way to Pugent Sound, Washington.  The first depot in Deerwood was built in 1871. As more settlers arrived, the Village grew and gave birth to the Cuyuna Range, named after the combined names of Surveyor, Cuyler Adams and his dog Una.   Adams was struck by an unnatural deviation of the compass needle in certain areas and soon discovered the iron ore that started the mining boom. The first active iron mine on what was to become the Cuyuna Range,  was the Kennedy mine, located on the south shore of Rabbit Lake.

 The area boomed and by 1913 there were over 100 businesses accommodating all the needs of the growing population.   At one time there was a ferry from Deerwood to Crosby.  By wagon, Joe Ruttger would meet the train and deliver visitors from as far away as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska to his farm on Bay Lake.  Josephine Ruttger provided meals and was reputedly a wonderful cook. There wasn’t much to do but fish, but visitors from warmer climates would stay the summer at the lake, avoiding the heat from which they came.  Each year Joe would add another building and in this manner Ruttger’s Bay Lake Resort was born.

 In 1934, Beriah MaGoffin Jr. donated all of the material to construct the Deerwood Auditorium.  The estimated amount of field stones needed was 800 tons which came from the grounds of what is now known as the Cuyuna Country Club.  In 1936, work was completed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and local talent and featured a multi-purpose hall with balconies to seat 500.  It housed the village council chambers, kitchen, locker rooms, library and the village fire apparatus.  In 2010 renovations were completed; these repairs allowed the building to retain its exceptional, historic appearance.  The auditorium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently being used by the police and City of Deerwood.

 For years, mining supported and improved the lives of the people, communities and counties on the Cuyuna Range.  In the 1950’s Taconite taxes kept property taxes low, along with the cost-of-living, making this an ideal place to relocate and/or retire.



The community works well together to get things done.  Life is easy going and friendly.  Deerwood is primarily a working-class town with traditional values; they are independent, self-sufficient, hardworking and willing to help their neighbors.  Economic times have been tough the past few years.   But, when there is a need or in times of disaster, this is when Deerwood shines.  Chainsaws or food or an army of help will arrive, sometimes unorganized, exhibiting the strength and quality of the people that are proud to call Deerwood home. 

 The Salem West Church maintains a support network to assist people in need in the community.  Initially only for people in Deerwood, it has now expanded to encompass all Crow Wing County.  

 Larson Lake trails, located south of Deerwood, holds snow later in the season than any other groomed course in the area. These trails are perfect for skiers of all skill sets.


 Deerwood identified these additional assets in their community:

 Natural Assets:



Proximity to natural resources

Natural ski & hiking trails


Cultural Assets:


Community spirit

Wild rice harvest



Human Assets:


Retired professionals

Self-sufficient mind set



 Social Assets:

Fire Department

Deerwood civic groups/Legion/Lions

The Mustard Seed-thrift store


Snow Serpents-trail maintenance

Boy/Girl Scouts

Deerwood Country Club



Political Assets:

Deerwood Auditorium-City Hall & Police

Strong Police force

1st Responders/fire department

Strong city council


Financial Assets:

Deerwood Tech

Deerwood Bank

Hallet Charitable Trust




Magnum Machine

Traditions Golf

Parker Hennepin-auto parts maker

Deerwood Rice Plant


Built Assets:

Bike Trails

Hwy 210 & Hwy 6-location


Broadband-fiber optics

2 public housing units

Walking trails



Community members in Deerwood, have many ideas for what they want in their community next, while at the same time realizing the times have changed.   Businesses in Deerwood have declined from the mining hay day, but a variety of goods and services are still available in Deerwood and Brainerd now only a short drive away.  Community members feel that overall small businesses cannot compete.

 The community members have determined the following to be their primary wishes for the community.

 Community Goals

 One prevailing idea heard repeatedly is disgust at the waste involving overlapping services.  By not collaborating or cooperating, services by area government and non-profit organizations are less effective and diluted.  One community member suggested a 1-800 number for services in the county.

 1.     Increase tourism, history and beautification

The community sees street beautification and relaying their rich history as an opportunity to increase tourism, by making Deerwood a warm and inviting place to stop and shop and enjoy.

 2.     Promote Active Living and Larson Lake Trail System

The community would like to revitalize the population by promoting a healthy lifestyle.  It is felt that robust outdoor and recreational activities can make an economic impact on Deerwood and be the “bread and butter” that leads them into a niche market, while promoting healthy choices for residents.  Some of the ideas are geo-caching, walking & biking trails, cross country ski trails.

 3.     Manufacturing, Business and Technology for more Financial Stability

Expand existing businesses


For more information about Deerwood, go to www.