The property of Clearwater Lake was first developed in the early 1920′s by John A. Savage of Duluth. Originally of Nashua, New Hampshire, John Savage made his fortune in the iron ore mining industry, owning the Croft and Sagamore Mines on the Cuyuna Range (Crosby, MN) and the Draper Mine on the Mesabi Range. The Croft Mine is now a Minnesota State Park Museum. John Savage, his wife Mary, and their five sons spent their summers at the Clearwater Lake property for 30 years. John Savage called the main house, now known as Eagle Lodge, “Eagle Beak” and he and Mary referred to the whole place as “the farm”. The Savage family owned and used the Clearwater Lake estate until shortly after John’s sudden death in the Summer of 1954.

The property, at that time about 612 acres, and it’s extraordinary stone buildings were purchased in October of 1954 by the Synod of Minnesota of the United Presbyterian Church. Subsequent acquisitions of land helped Clearwater Forest to reach its current size of 1,016.5 acres. The Presbyterian acquisition of the property was in large part due to the involvement of Ernest and Jessie Hallett of Crosby, Minnesota. Ernest Hallett, a very successful entrepreneur, helped to initiate the decision making process by the Synod and he also donated $10,000 toward the purchase. The Halletts continued to be primary benefactors of Clearwater Forest, donating over $100,000 to build the Hallett Dining Hall in 1961.

In 1981, Clearwater Forest came under the ownership of Presbyterian Clearwater Forest, Inc., a corporation owned by five governing bodies of the Presbyterian Church (USA), including the Presbyteries of the Twin cities Area, Minnesota Valleys, Northern Waters, Northern Plains, and also the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. This corporate partnership still owns and shepherds Clearwater Forest today.

Since 1954, Clearwater Forest has served as a retreat center and summer camp and many thousands of people have had joyful and important experiences as a result. While the programs, services, and facilities have evolved greatly over the years, the basic usage is still the same. Clearwater Forest offers 40-50 different programs for children, youth, families and adults. Young people from over 100 different Presbyterian Churches attend camps every summer. Nearly 4000 people participate in some Clearwater Forest program each year.

In 1995 Clearwater Forest simultaneously constructed a new retreat lodge for adult use and a new summer youth camp. The new lodge, called Leaning Tree Lodge, provides resort/motel type accommodations for groups or individuals, year-round, for up to 32 guests. The new summer camp provides an outstanding setting for Christian camping programs.