Archive for May, 2016

The History of Leech Lake

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Today, Leech Lake and the Walker area are places to escape everyday life. If you are spending a day on Leech Lake fishing or strolling through the town of Walker, you really have the chance to slow down and enjoy the simplicity of the everyday. But how did Leech Lake get to where it is today?

How Leech Lake Formed

Leech Lake and the Walker area are built on the remains of a glacier. As the glacier receded, it left three ridges that are the hills of Walker, and the surrounding areas. This glacial movement in combination with the unique geological makeup of the area gave Leech Lake it’s unique shape and abundance of bays, which make for perfect fishing spots and ideal aquatic habitats.

 

In the 1700s

Original inhabitants of the Leech Lake area was the Sioux tribe. However, in the early 1700s the Ojibwe (or Chippewa) moved from the Northeast in to the Sioux territory. Battles over territory and land occurred, and eventually the Sioux were driven in to Dakota Territory.

 

woods in Chippewa National Forest

 

In the 1800s

French explorers were the first in the area. The Northwest Company, a fur trading business that began in Montreal in the late 1700s, established trading posts in 1785 on Ottertail Point. More trading posts were established in the early 1800s, and by 1895 a small settlement had begun. In 1896, the railroad came to Leech Lake from Brainerd and the town of Walker was officially founded. Walker is named after logging giant Thomas B. Walker, and the town was founded by Patrick McGarry.

 

Battle of Sugar Point

The Battle of Sugar Point, considered the last true Indian battle, happened in October of 1898. The dispute is a very familiar one and was rooted over land. Indian lands and burial grounds were being destroyed by explorers moving west.

In the years leading up to the battle, Indian chief “Old Bug” was arrested under vague circumstances and was taken to Duluth from Leech Lake. Due to lack of evidence the charges were dropped and Old Bug walked the hundred miles home, through snow and ice.

In September of 1898, Old Bug went to pick up his annuity payment and was arrested. He called for help and 22 Natives came to his side. They escaped to Bear Island and warrants were issued for all involved.

Twenty soldiers were sent from Fort Snelling to talk to the tribal members, but when they refused to talk another 80 troops were sent to Walker. Old Bug and his tribe still refused to meet and on October 5th, 1898 officers went abroad steamers to Bear Lake, only to find it deserted.

They moved on to Sugar Point Hill, where Old Bug’s cabin was empty. The exhausted troops were ordered to stack arms, but one soldier did not put the safety on. When the gun fell, it discharged and caused the Natives (who were circling the area) to open fire.  The remaining troops sought safety at Old Bug’s cabin while waiting for the Minnesota National Guard to arrive in Walker.

On October 7th, the Natives allowed the soldiers to leave on the barge. The troops suffered 7 casualties and 16 more were wounded. There were no casualties among the Natives.

 

The Result of the Battle

The Battle of Sugar Point, although generally forgotten on a national scale, lead to the creation of the Chippewa National Forest and national forest lands across the United States.

 

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

 

In the 1900s and Today

Once the railroad came to Leech Lake hotels, camping facilities, and public launching areas started to pop up in the area which started the tourism industry in Leech Lake. Tourism began to grow in the 20th century as people from urban areas began escape to rural areas to escape from everyday life and relax.

Today, Leech Lake his home to some of the best fishing in Minnesota and plenty of activities for families to enjoy. Whether you are looking to camp or stay at a resort, Leech Lake has everything you need for the perfect family vacation and to make lifelong memories.

 

boating on leech lake

Photo by Sonja Grube

Minnesota Fishing Opener: How to Stay Safe on Leech Lake

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

This weekend marks the 2016 Minnesota Fishing Opener! What a better place to celebrate than fishing on Leech Lake? Leech Lake is the third largest lake in Minnesota and is home to some of the best walleye fishing in the Midwest. Lakes can get busy, especially during fishing opener. While you’re out catching fish – remember to be careful! Here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe while out fishing.

 

Fishing on a Sunny Lake

 

1.       Life Jacket: If you are going to be on a boat while fishing, be sure that everyone on board has a life jacket. Chances are you won’t need it, but it’s always best to be safe. Even if you are a great swimmer, emergencies cause anxiety levels escalate which could cause you to not swim as well as you normally would. Spring weather in Minnesota can be fickle, but life jackets can serve as an extra layer to help keep you warm. Life jackets can also be quite comfortable – giving you extra cushion for your back!

 

Life Jackets on Boat

 

2.       Safety Kit: From a first aid kit to map – make sure you have everything you need on your boat. According to the Red Cross, a good first aid kit should have the following:

  • Bandages
  • Absorbent Compress Dressings
  • Adhesive Cloth Tape
  • Aspirin
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Antibiotic Ointment

Leech Lake is huge, and it’s easy to get lost or turned around while out on the water – especially if it’s your first time here or are exploring a new section of the lake. We recommend bringing a map of the lake out with you, or a GPS, in case you do get turned around while out on the lake. With 160 Square miles of lake getting lost can be easier than you may think on Leech Lake. A map of Leech Lake can not only help you figure out your direction, but can give you insight on the topography surrounding the lake. This will give you warning of the depth and if you may run in to any unexpected shallow areas.

Map of Leech Lake

3.       Appropriate Footwear: This the arrival of spring and warm weather, it’s tempting to throw your tennis shoes and boots aside and opt for flip flops and sandals. However, many hooks and other sharp objects are used while fishing and may find their way to the floor of the boat. Avoid accidental injury and stepping on these objects by wearing shoes that cover and protect your feet.

4.       Dress Appropriately: We’ve already mentioned that spring weather in Minnesota can be fickle and unpredictable. Making sure you’re prepared with the proper clothing can be the difference between a great and miserable day out on the lake. We recommend dressing in layers, that way you can be prepared for a hot – or frigid – day. Be sure to pack a rain jacket and pants in case the weather starts to get wet above the boat as well.

5.       Keep Knives and Hooks Covered: To avoid injury, keep knives and hooks covered and stored away when not in use. Picking out a great tackle box can help keep your fishing life organized and safe. Many tackle boxes are available with multiple trays and different sizes. These are great to keep your larger tools (like knives and scissors) on the larger shelves, while keeping your smaller hooks and jigs organized on the top shelves.

Fishing Tackle Box on Dock

 

Have a great fishing opener and season! We look forward to seeing you on Leech Lake soon.