Lac Courte Oreilles

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Lac Courte Oreilles
Location Sawyer County, Wisconsin, USA
Coordinates 45°53′N 91°25′W / 45.883°N 91.417°W / 45.883; -91.417Coordinates: 45°53′N 91°25′W / 45.883°N 91.417°W / 45.883; -91.417
Basin countries United States
Max. length approx. 6 mi (9.6 km)
Max. width approx. 2 mi (3.2 km) at widest
Surface area 5,039 acres (2,039 ha)
Max. depth 90 ft (27 m)
Water volume 168,800 acre feet (208,200,000 m3)
Shore length1 25.4 mi (40.9 km)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lac Courte Oreilles /ləˈkdər/[1] is a large freshwater lake located in north west Wisconsin in Sawyer County in townships 39 and 40 north, ranges 8 and 9 west. It is irregular in shape having numerous peninsulas and bays, being approximately six miles long in a southwest to northeast direction and with a maximum width of about two miles (3 km). Lac Courte Oreilles is 5,039 acres (20.39 km2) in size with a maximum depth of 90 feet (27 m) and a shoreline of 25.4 miles (40.9 km).[2] The lake has a small inlet stream (Grindstone Creek) that enters on the northeast shore of the lake and that flows from Grindstone Lake, a short distance away to the north. There is an outlet on the southeast shore of the lake that leads through a very short passage to Little Lac Courte Oreilles, then via the Couderay River to the Chippewa River, and ultimately to the Mississippi River at Lake Pepin.

Lac Courte Oreilles is located approximately eight and one-half miles southeast of the city of Hayward, the primary commercial and retail center of the area, and is one of three large natural lakes (Lac Courte Oreilles, Grindstone Lake, and Round Lake) located to the south and east of the city. There is a small unincorporated residential community on the north side of the lake commonly referred to as Northwoods (or North Woods) Beach. The eastern part of the lake is located in the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation. The shore of the lake is principally occupied by seasonal lake cabins and homes.

The lake has an abundance of northern pike, muskie, walleye, bass and other fish, and is a popular fishing destination. Lac Courte Oreilles is now a popular resort area drawing cabin owners and visitors from the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Chicago metropolitan areas.

Origin of name[edit]

The name Lac Courte Oreilles is shared by the nearby Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation. In the Ojibwe language the lake is called Odaawaa-zaaga'iganiing, "Ottawa Lake"[3] and it was often referred to as such (or as "Ottowaw Lake") in early descriptions of the area.[4] The name Lac Courte Oreilles was given to the lake by French fur trappers who were the earliest European explorers in the area. The French term "Lac Courte Oreilles" translates as "Lake Short Ears," as the trappers believed the Ottawa Anishinaabe peoples living in the area cut off the edges of their ear[lobe]s. An alternative explanation is that some tribes in the region had a practice of distending their earlobes by earrings or other ornaments. However, the Indians of the Lac Courte Oreilles area did not practice that custom and hence had naturally shaped "short" ears.[5]

History[edit]

Prior to European exploration, the area of Lac Courte Oreilles was inhabited by the Ojibwa Indians. The first known visit by Europeans to the area was around 1660. Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers travelled from Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior southward through the area in 1659 and stayed for a period at an Indian village on a lake that has been identified as Lac Courte Oreilles.[6]

Jonathan Carver passed through the area in 1767 travelling north from the Mississippi River up the Chippewa River. He reported staying at the Indian village on Lac Courte Oreilles (he referred to it as Ottowaw Lakes) from June 22 through 29, 1767. He described the village as being on either side of a channel between two lakes which he referred to as the Ottowaw Lakes. He then travelled to the St. Croix River (by way of Grindstone Lake, Windigo Lake, the Namekagon Portage, and the Namekagon River) and thence northward to Lake Superior.[7] In describing their visit to the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian village, the journals of Carver and another member of the expedition (James Stanley Goddard) state that they were the first white people to have visited the area.[8] This claim would be contrary to the speculation described above that Radisson and Groseilliers visited the village in about 1660, more than one hundred years before.

The area was later visited by Henry Schoolcraft in 1831 who described the trip from the Namekagon River to Lac Courte Oreilles by way of the Namekagon Portage, Windigo Lake, and Grindstone Lake.[9] Schoolcraft visited the Indian village on Lac Courte Oreilles and described it as being located at the outlet of the lake.[10] From Carver's and Schoolcraft's descriptions, it appears that the Indian village was located on either side of the channel between Lac Courte Oreilles and Little Lac Courte Oreilles.

Lac Courte Oreilles and this village were well known to traders and explorers of the time and the village was one of the larger Indian settlements in the area. Schoolcraft listed its population as 504 persons in the statistical report arising out of his 1832 exploration to the sources of the Mississippi River, one of the largest Indian settlements in the region.[11] The village's importance may have arisen from Lac Courte Oreilles's strategic place on the route between its location in the Chippewa River watershed over to the St. Croix River watershed.[12] The latter watershed was reached from Lac Courte Oreilles by travelling north and west through Grindstone Lake, Windigo Lake, and over the Namekagon Portage to the Namekagon River in the St. Croix River watershed.

The Sawyer County Historical Society Website contains an interesting article regarding early "fishing clubs" that were located on Lac Courte Oreilles around the turn of the 20th Century."[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miss Pronouncer: Hear how to pronounce; The Wisconsin pronunciation guide for cities, counties, Indians & lawmakers
  2. ^ Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Website lake map (see external link below)
  3. ^ Ojibwe Dictionary. Freelang. Retrieved 2007-04-14
  4. ^ See, for example, Journals of Jonathan Carver; ed. John Parker; Minnesota Historical Society Press; St. Paul; 1976 (page 127); and Schoolcraft's Expedition to Lake Itasca; ed. Philip P. Mason; Michigan State University Press; East Lansing; 1958 (pages 6, 87, and 341).
  5. ^ See, for example, Schoolcraft's Expedition to Lake Itasca; ed. Philip P. Mason; Michigan State University Press; East Lansing; 1958 (editor's footnote 8, page 98).
  6. ^ The Explorations of Pierre Esprit Radisson; ed. Arthur T. Adams; Ross & Haines, Inc.; Minneapolis; 1961 (pages 128-130). The editor indicates that Lac Courte Oreilles was identified as the location of the Indian village by Father Chrysostome Verwyst in Parkman Club Papers (No. 11), vol. II, pp. 1-24. Adams also argues that the visit occurred in 1661 rather than 1659, the year normally ascribed to the visit.
  7. ^ Journals of Jonathan Carver; ed. John Parker; Minnesota Historical Society Press; St. Paul; 1976 (pages 127 to 129).
  8. ^ Journals of Jonathan Carver; ed. John Parker; Minnesota Historical Society Press; St. Paul; 1976 (pages 128, 129, and 190).
  9. ^ Schoolcraft's Expedition to Lake Itasca; ed. Philip P. Mason; Michigan State University Press; East Lansing; 1958 (page 6).
  10. ^ Schoolcraft's Expedition to Lake Itasca; ed. Philip P. Mason; Michigan State University Press; East Lansing; 1958 (page 115).
  11. ^ Schoolcraft's Expedition to Lake Itasca; ed. Philip P. Mason; Michigan State University Press; East Lansing; 1958 (page 160).
  12. ^ Schoolcraft's Expedition to Lake Itasca; ed. Philip P. Mason; Michigan State University Press; East Lansing; 1958 (page 115).
  13. ^ Sawyer County Historical Society Article on Fishing Clubs.

External links[edit]