Lac Vieux Desert


Lac Vieux Desert is both a lake, and a region. The name was first applied to the lake by French fur trappers. Lac Vieux Desert is how the translation from the Anishinaabe expression, Gete-gitigaani-zaaga'igan, meaning "Lake of the Old Clearing" or "Old Garden" came out in French. Not knowing the ancient history of the lake, the river and the Menominee region, the translation misses the essential meaning of the original Anishinaabe by a wide margin. Don’t blame the translators. It wasn’t the first time there was confusion during translation. They may have been unaware that many words and expressions in Native American languages have both a worldly meaning and a spiritual meaning. They may not have known that the lake is the source of what became known as the Wisconsin River. That river flows through Piers Gorge and on to Lake Michigan at the town of Menominee. The Anishinaabe name for the area refers in part to the extensive rice gardens that were maintained within the lake itself. Gone now, those rice beds, noted by early explorers, have been forgotten by nearly everyone except those whose history and heritage are tied to the area. The gardens were extensive. They were a major source of food all the way down to Lake Michigan where the town of Menominee is today.

bowling ball stump lakenenland

There are of islands in the lake and one of them is where a lost secret can be found. If you consult a modern map looking at the northeastern lobe of the lake, you will find a series of islands. Draper Island is usually named on maps, as is Duck Island. Between those, often unnamed, is Near Island. On that island are the remnants of an ancient fort. References can be found to this earthwork on old maps. I first heard about this ancient construction during an Ancient Artifact Preservation Society seminar. At that conference the ancient ruins were attributed to the Hopewell people. The Hopewell are sometimes referred to as the mound builders and flourished from around 100 BC to 500 AD, in the Middle Woodland period. This island is now privately owned and is posted with no trespassing signs. However, in late fall and early winter when the frost has killed the weeds, the outline of the ancient earthworks can be seen from the water.


The canoe pictured was found in the 1950's in this region. The canoe is made from a single white pine log. It is 32 feet 6 inches long, it’s 31 inches wide at the center and is 21 inches high. The walls of the canoe are 1 ½ inches thick. This vessel could transport 15-20 people.