Minnesota is pretty close to nudism’s final frontier. Our mostly unfavorable climate, mosquitoes, and a fairly prudish social environment have kept nudists in their closets. St. Paul statutes decree that “No person shall appear in any street or public place in the City in a state of nudity,” and Minneapolis proclaims, “No person ten years of age or older shall intentionally expose his or her own genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast below the top of the areola, with less than a fully opaque covering.” Despite a decades-long tradition of bohemian skinny-dipping at Hidden Beach, nestled in the northeastern curve of Cedar Lake, you can be ticketed or arrested for bathing there in your natural state. In a nod to its citizens’ support for the arts, the Minneapolis law offers a loophole for skin bared in the course of a theatrical performance. But unless you’re on a public stage, and your “performance” goes beyond showing off your birthday suit, it is not wise to attempt to assert a First Amendment right to air your naughty bits. That’s already been tried, and the local courts shot it down.

But there is succor, thanks to one longstanding article of American faith: What you do on private property is generally considered your own business. And nudism—or naturism, as its more classically minded apologists call it—has flourished in privacy here for decades.

The Oakwood Club is Minnesota’s oldest clothing-optional resort. For sixty years the club has maintained a rustic forty-acre campground about ten miles west of Interstate 35W in Anoka County. The dirt road turnoff to the site is guarded by an unmarked farm-style metal gate with an intercom and keypad at the entrance. It’s secluded, surrounded by towering oak trees, birch, and pine and bordered on two sides by a nature preserve that is off limits to future development. It’s a good location for privacy. Polaris Industries Inc. opened its new research and development center in the area last May so it can test the all-terrain vehicles it makes without the risks of traffic or the prying eyes of competitors.

Oakwood doesn’t advertise its presence in the community; its exact location is undisclosed until you are accepted as a member or until you visit as a dues-paying member of the American Association for Nude Recreation, which represents nearly fifty thousand members and their families.

There’s no hint at the entrance to suggest that there’s anything down the tree-shrouded dirt road but a farm. From May 1 until September 30, however, the club is a beehive for sunbathers eager to make the most of Minnesota’s brief skin-exposing season. It is a mecca of sun-soaked shuffleboard, jiggly horseshoe pitching, potluck dinners served naked with oven mitts, and a lot of rather insistent socializing. Oakwood operates as a cooperative. Members pay a $650 annual fee for the privilege of parking their trailer or motor home at one of the seventy-seven designated campsites. This is not a resort you visit to get away from it all; you go to connect with others of your kind.

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