Omakakakaning (Frog Bay)
For hundreds of years Omakakakaning (Frog Bay) has been an important part of the Red Cliff Ojibwe (Anishinaabeg) community. For some families it was a seasonal setting-off place when heading out to the islands for several weeks of hunting, fishing, or gathering. For others it was where nets were set for the annual run of spawning fish. In the time of ice it was used as a base for both shallow water spearing and for deep water bobbing. It was used for as long as some of today’s reservation residents can remember.
Mary Baker Roy told how when newly married, she and her husband Joe Roy, kept a summer camp at Frog Bay. “Joe hunted and I set my net,” she once told this writer. “We lived down there – had a shack by the beach. Frog Bay is the prettiest place in all of Red Cliff. I always felt that. Years later I just used to go down there to spend the day. It was ours. Nobody else – gaawiin gichi-mookomaanag (no white people) came there. It was nice.”
Mary was born in 1892; Joe a few years earlier. They both were fluent in Ojibwemowin, the Ojibwe language, and both knew the old ways. For several years in the early twentieth century Frog Bay was their place. There were no sailboats, kayaks, or visiting tourists then, just the Anishinaabeg and beautiful Omakakakaning.
~By Howard Paap
I think about water a lot. No denying it is an essential part of our daily existence: our bodies are 80% water, we cook with it, bathe with it, grow our food with it and, very importantly, make coffee with it. Water brings us joy, both aesthetically and through water based recreation - I absolutely love to swim in the lake, catch fish (and eat them!), canoe on the rivers and more. We are so incredibly fortunate to be able to turn on a tap and receive fresh drinking water, a simple luxury not experienced by most of the world. We also can visit an abundance of special fresh water places, including wetlands, waterfalls, hundreds of inland lakes, Lake Superior, and thousands of miles of rivers. With all of this abundance, it is really easy to take this resource for granted.
Because this area is so rich in water, I sometimes think the name of the Bayfield Regional Conservancy should be the Headwaters Conservancy. Our Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, and Sawyer Counties service area includes the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi and the headwaters of Lake Superior, head of all of the Great Lakes and the home of 10% of the world’s fresh water. Much of what we do at the BRC protects these headwater systems.
In being thankful for all this wonderful water, I must confer the land and forests their due. The abundance and health of our water is, in part, directly related to the health of our natural landscape. Forests are a critical part of the water cycle – their respiration puts water into the atmosphere and during heavy rains and snow melt, they slow the flow of water over land, helping it absorb into the ground and enter the water table, thus also reducing the likelihood of flooding. By slowing the flow and acting as filters, our forests and wetlands, also vastly reduce runoff, pollution, and sedimentation into our rivers, streams and lakes. Anyone driving over Fish Creek on their way to Ashland after the last heavy rains couldn’t help but notice the reddish brown sediment plume billowing out into the Lake. It just so happens that forest cover in the Fish Creek watershed has diminished to less than half. Scientists with the US Forest Service and the University of Wisconsin have shown a direct relationship between land over and water quality. The more the landscape is covered with natural habitats, the healthier our rivers, streams and lakes.
In support of this, the BRC just protected another 230 acres of forest in partnership with the Wisconsin DNR in the Town of Bell (one of my favorite areas!) including a couple of miles of stream corridor along Lost Creeks 2 and 3, both of which drain into Lake Superior. Not only will this project protect some awesome forest habitat for migratory songbirds, wolf, bear, and plants, but it will also ensure the health of the estuary at Lost Creek Bog, the aquatic habitats of Lost Creeks 2 and 3, and the health of Lake Superior.
As you enjoy the summer swimming, boating or fishing in your local lake, river or Lake Superior, remember to thank the forests and the wetlands for their role in providing that opportunity and know that BRC is working very hard to preserve our water, wetlands and forests.
I have to say that one of the best parts about working for the Conservancy is I get to meet a lot of interesting people and visit beautiful properties. These people include agency people, BRC members, consultants, scientists, conservation devotees, and last but not least, landowners of special properties. Recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Barbara Forster and her son, Forrest Burke, to preserve their piece of heaven on Upper Eau Claire Lake. The property is located in an area we refer to as the Barrens and is comprised mainly of mature Red Pine forest with a sparse and scrubby understory. (Not many people realize this but the Barrens are a globally important habitat type that is rare and threatened by conversion to other forest types, agriculture, and fire suppression, among others. )
The Forster family land not only boasts majestic stands of Red pine forest, but its 230 acres are home to some interesting mixed hardwood forest, wetlands, a large beaver pond, Mulligan Creek and 1 mile of shoreline along scenic Upper Eau Claire Lake - large game, birds, and other animals abound. With a vision of preserving the special habitats on their property, Barbara and Forrest have been working with BRC to enter into a permanent land management agreement, called a Conservation Easement, which is attached to the deed (conveying to all future landowners) and prohibits incompatible land use practices. I am very thankful to them and the other numerous Wisconsin landowners who value nature so much that they choose to work with Land Trusts like BRC to permanently preserve their slices of heaven. I feel very blessed to live, work, and play in such a beautiful place and with such awesome people.
Steve Mosow and Barb McGraw recently generously donated their three lots in town (appraised at $58,000) near the Bayfield School to the Conservancy. The lots border a steep ravine just south of the school. A deed restriction will be placed on the property to protect the ravine before the Conservancy sells the two lots. If you are interested in purchasing the lot contact the Conservancy and know that in buying the land you are helping preserve special places in our region in a big way.
The Conservancy is in awe by the generosity of the Bayfield community and greatly appreciates the kindness show by its members. Thank you Steve and Barb for helping the Conservancy continue its mission to protect special places!
Join the Conservancy, Mt. Ashwabay Ski & Recreation Area and Northland College's Cross County Ski team for a magical evening of skiing or walking on a luminary trail under the next full moon.
Tuesday, February 7th from 6:30 to 9:00pm
at Mt. Ashwabay
Mt. Ashwabay has graciously waived the trail fee for the evening and will be providing cross ski rentals at the Ski Chalet.
Afterwards gather around the fire at the T-Bar or the Chalet for cocktails (cash bar) and appetizers!
Perfect for families, avid skiers, and those who just love walk and warm fires!
A special thank you to Northland College's Cross Country Ski Club for providing luminary's on the trail and Mt. Ashwabay Ski & Recreation Area for hosting this magical evening!
We are again, upon the time of year when the "Big Lake" begins its annual freeze, opening up all kinds of fun outdoor recreational activities. My personal winter outdoor must do list includes, venturing out on the Lakeshore trail at Meyers Beach to see the sea caves, ice skating along the inlet at Little Bay State Park and cruising along the Jerry Jolly Trail on my xc skis or snowshoes. Sunlight will be growing as we head into January making it even more important to take advantage of all those blue sky days. When the moon is full or the night sky twinkling down on us we can ski/snowshoe around the peninsula taking in the crisp air. This is my most favorite time of year.
Signing off until next time,