Kelly Sorge: Second Generation Resort Owner

“Some of our favorite people come from places that I’ve never been, probably never be there, but they come here every year. The first thing they do is come give me a hug and it’s so much like family.”

Family is everything at Indian Hills Resort, according to current owner/operator, Kelly Sorge. From the history of the business to the legacy of the third-generation guests, family is definitely infused throughout the place, 30 miles west of Garrison.

The Holtans, Kelly’s grandparents who ranched the land back in the 50s, constantly saw people coming into their bay to find a safe haven. “When Garrison Dam was completed and the lake came in, it was surprising how many people would come up and down the lake and actually pull into our bay, Good Bear Bay, and overnight there because it’s a really nice, big protected bay,” Kelly explained.

In the 80s, when Kelly’s parents were the ranching there, they were approached by North Dakota Parks and Recreation, North Dakota Game and Fish and the Corps of Engineers. “They were looking for a place for the public to gain access to that section of the lake. The outdoors woman in my mom (Tolly) said ‘yeah, this is the place they need to be,’” Kelly relates. So Tolly took the bull by the horns and built the foundation of this resort with her family. “You don’t really hear people say I’m going to grow up and be a campground owner and a rancher, but they actually really work well together,” Kelly laughs.

Tolly, being the fantastic angler she was, also built a reputation of great sports fishing for the resort. She was quick to share her tips and known hot spots, including her very own point, rightly named by the locals as “Tolly’s Point.” The tradition continues today. “Right now, the fishery is world-class,” Kelly says. “The lake has really exploded as far as a walleye fishery.” She also points out that so many of her guests have been surprised at the size and the beauty of the lake. With more shoreline than California’s Pacific coast, Kelly states that “you could spend a week on this lake in a sailboat or a pontoon, it’s endless what you could do.”

Resort life isn’t always glamorous and when the work started to be too much for Tolly, Kelly stepped in. “Indian Hills being a family business, it just really needed to stay in the family. We really couldn’t imagine it any other way. I said to my husband give me five years and let’s see what happens, and this is our 17th summer,” Kelly says with a grin.

You can see her dedication as she jokes around with guests and takes pictures of the kids with their daily catch. Behind the scenes, she and her family are making sure everything is set for the people who visit. Even with all the care and commitment behind the work she does, Kelly assures, “the most important thing about Indian Hills, I think, doesn’t have anything to do with me. It has to do with the tradition of family. When our guests come in and the grandkids come running up and they hug me and say ‘Kelly!’ it’s just so exciting. That’s the way they were with my mom. Everybody knew Tolly, everybody hugged Tolly. It was always a family thing.”

Indian Hills has about 100 campsites and everything from small camping cabins to new fully furnished condos. There’s a convenience store with the necessities and, of course, ice cream. While in the area, one of Kelly’s favorite places to go is up the Missouri arm of Lake Sakakawea about 10 miles on the water from their dock. Be sure to stop in Garrison, the “Walleye Capital of the World” to get your picture with Wally, the World’s Largest Walleye.

For more stories, go to ND TravelMatters.

Related Content: