A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Black Lake Michigan’

Onaway, Michigan

Posted by graywacke on April 4, 2017

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2336; A Landing A Day blog post number 767.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long 45o 17.215’N, 84o 0.570’W) puts me in N-Cen Michigan:

My local landing map shows a few towns, only one of which (as you already know) became titular:

Here’s a short and sweet watershed analysis:

I landed in the watershed of the Ocqueoc River (1st hit ever!), on to Lake Huron (17th hit); on to the St. Lawrence (105th hit).

By the way, this was my 57th landing in Michigan, yet my first landing in the Ocqueoc watershed . . .

So I need to Google the Ocqueoc River.  From Wiki:

The Ocqueoc River (pronounced AH-kee-ock) is 34 miles long and encompasses a watershed of approximately 95,000 acres or 150 sq miles.

[Actually, pretty small watershed; only 10 mi x 15 mi . . .]

The word Ocqueoc comes from a French term meaning “crooked waters.”

I spent some amount of time (aka too much time) trying to find a French phrase that means crooked waters (or something like crooked waters) that sounds even a little like Ocqueoc.  The French word for water is “eau,” (pronounced oh), which seems like a start, but still, no luck.  Oh, well.  Back to Wiki:

Ocqueoc Falls are the largest waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan with a drop of about 5 feet.

AYKM?  Oh my.  This requires research!

So I googled “highest waterfalls in Michigan,” and found that the Ocqueoc Falls (which the website said were 10’ tall, not 5’) are the 107th highest falls in the state.  So the top 106 are in the Upper Peninsula?  Seems unlikely.

But it’s true.  The counties for each of the falls were listed, and I methodically checked the first 106 falls and aye-yup, they were all in the UP.  How about that?

Sorry about the “aye-yup.”  I fear that’s Maine, not Michigan . . .

We need a couple of Google Earth (GE) Panoramio photos of the mighty Ocqueoc Falls.  First, this by ChrisF66:

And this lovely winter view of the falls (reminding us that they really have winter in Northern Michigan), by PGerow:

Speaking of Google Earth, it’s time for my GE visit to landing 2336.  Click HERE.

My closest town is Millersburg (pop 200), but it’s totally hookless.  Tower has zero internet presence, and any references about Black Lake are all about the lake, not the “town.”  What’s left?  Onaway.  As is my wont, my first stop was Wiki:

Onaway is the Sturgeon Capital of Michigan, and there is a lake sturgeon streamside rearing facility on the nearby Black River, where the fish migrate down to the Cheboygan River and then to Lake Huron.

OK, I’ll have to look into the sturgeon angle a little more.  But first, back to a bulletized version of Wiki:

  • This farming community received a post office in 1882 with Thomas Shaw as postmaster. The town was name Shaw for him.

     [Logically enough.]

  • Arriving in 1886, Marritt Chandler platted the community under the name of Onaway.

  [No explanation for “Onaway.”]

  • Chandler took over as postmaster and officially changed the town’s name to Onaway in 1890.
  • In 1893, Shaw took back the postmaster position and changed the town’s name to Adalaska.

   [He gave up on “Shaw,” but whence cometh “Adalaska?”]

  • Once again, the post office was renamed back to Onaway in 1897.

   [Seemingly out the blue, back to Onaway.]

OnawayMi.com has a much more straightforward town name discussion, and fills in the crucial missing piece about Onaway:

The Onaway area was first settled in the 1880’s by Thomas Shaw and Merritt Chandler. Chandler was the first to plat the land, naming the town from a stanza in Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.” Onaway is an Ojibwa Indian cry meaning ‘Alert’ or ‘Awaken’.

So Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (known as Waddy to his friends) was an American poet (1807-1882), best known for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “Evangeline” besides “The Song of Hiawatha.”  What a distinguished looking gentleman!

I’ll dig a little into “The Song of Hiawatha” – it’s a very long epic poem, based on Ojibwa myths and legends.  If you’re like me, you don’t know much more than the first half of the first line:

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee . . .”

In the spirit of full disclosure, here’s the second half of the first line, and as a bonus feature, the second line:

“by the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.”

Anyway, I found Cliff’s Notes for the poem.  Fom Schmoop.com (oh, all right – not really Cliff’s Notes):

The poem starts by telling us how the Master of Life, Gitche Manito, came down from the skies and told all the people of the Earth to stop fighting and get along. To seal the deal, he had these people make peace pipes, which they take out and smoke together whenever a conflict arises. Then Gitche Manito throws in an added bonus: he tells the people that he will soon send a prophet who will suffer on their behalf so that they will all live better lives.

Some time after Gitche Manito’s appearance, a boy named Hiawatha is born to a woman named Wenonah. Hiawatha’s father is a demigod who controls the west wind, but as a dad he’s a deadbeat. He deserts Hiawatha’s mother, who ends up dying from heartbreak. In the meantime, Hiawatha grows up to be a strong and wise young man whose great reputation travels all across the land.

The book goes on to tell us about all the great stuff Hiawatha does, like making the corn grow better and killing a giant fish-god named Mishe-Nahma. Eventually, Hiawatha gets lonely and decides to ask a woman named Minnehaha to marry him.  She says yes and they live happily together. Along the way, Hiawatha finds the time to invent reading and writing and to teach these things to his people.

In the second half of the poem, Hiawatha loses his two best friends. Then he has to chase down a troublemaker named Pau-Puk-Keewis who has been destroying everything in his path. Finally, a terrible winter kills Hiawatha’s wife Minnehaha with a fever. Hiawatha feels as though there’s nothing left in his life to keep him in his village. One night, he has visions of white men arriving in a giant boat and teaching his people a new religion. Sure enough, this vision comes true and Hiawatha trusts that his people will be safe with the whites (um, he might be mistaken on that one).

At the end of the poem, Hiawatha gets in his canoe and paddles away from his village. He doesn’t know when or if he’ll ever come back. And that’s that.

Now I need to get to the Onaway part.  At the wedding feast (after the wedding of Hiawatha and Minnehaha), Chibiabos is asked to sing a song.  FYI, Chibiabos is a mythical Native American character.  According to most sources, he’s a God of the Underworld (although not a bad guy).  But I prefer this, from InfoPlease:

He is the musician; the harmony of nature personified. He teaches the birds to sing and the brooks to warble as they flow.

In that musical vein, here’s a picture entitled “Chibiabos the Flute Player” by Ed Copley (from EdCopleyFineArt.com):

Anyway, quoting from the poem, here’s an introduction to Chibiabos:

“Sing to us, O Chibiabos!
Songs of love and songs of longing,
That the feast may be more joyous,
That the time may pass more gayly,
And our guests be more contented!”

The song begins (Chibiabos singing to Hiawatha):

“Onaway! Awake, beloved!
Thou the wild-flower of the forest!
Thou the wild-bird of the prairie!”

And later in the song:

“Onaway! My heart sings to thee,
Sings with joy when thou art near me,
As the sighing, singing branches
In the pleasant Moon of Strawberries!”

And again, as the song ends:

“I myself, myself! Behold me!
Blood of my beating heart, behold me!
O awake, awake, beloved!
Onaway ! Awake, beloved!”

Yo Chibiabos.  You’re a dude, and you only sang to Hiawatha?  Shouldn’t you say something about Minehaha?

That’s enough on the Onaway name origin; actually, more information than you need, eh?

Moving right along to sturgeon.  Onaway is the “Sturgeon Capital of Michigan” because nearby Black Lake is famous for its sturgeon, and also because there’s a sturgeon hatchery on the Upper Black River that flows into Black Lake.

I found a Feb 2017 Lansing State Journal article about Black Lake sturgeon by Kathleen Lavey.  I’ll be quoting from the article more extensively in a minute, but for background, I’ll start with this excerpt:

This ancient family of fishes has been recognized since the Upper Cretaceous period (136 million years ago), at a time when dinosaurs were at the height of their development.  To a casual observer, a sturgeon looks like a curious blend of catfish and shark. Like a shark, it has a skeleton made of cartilage, not bone; like a catfish, it finds food with the help of “barbels” hanging like whiskers from its chin.

Sturgeon don’t have scales, but wide-set rows of bony plates called scutes. The toothless beasts vacuum up snails, crayfish, clams and insect larvae from lake and river bottoms.

It’s likely that females hatched during the administration of President Ulysses Grant still swim in the Great Lakes! Female sturgeon live up to 150 years; males up to 80. It takes 12 to 20 years for males to mature and up to 25 years for females to do so.

Wow.  An amazing fish, indeed!  Although not mentioned above, they’re a very large fish, and can be up to 7’ long, weighing over 200 lbs!  Here’s a picture from Michigan State University, of a graduate student researcher:

And a fingerling, from the Black River hatchery:

From Wiki, more about Lake Sturgeon:

In 1860, this species, taken on incidental catches of other fishes, was killed and dumped back in the lake, piled up on shore to dry and be burned, fed to pigs, or dug into the earth as fertilizer.  It was even stacked like cordwood and used to fuel steamboats. When their meat and eggs (cavier) became prized (around 1880), they were caught by every available means, including nets.  Over 5 million lb were taken from Lake Erie in a single year. The fishery collapsed, largely by 1900. They have never recovered. Like most sturgeons, the lake sturgeon is rare now and is protected in many areas.

Due to conservation efforts (such as the Onaway fish hatchering) and improvements in water quality in the Great Lakes and the rivers and streams that feed the lakes, lake sturgeon are making a modest come back.

In fact, fishing for lake sturgeon is actually legal.  Getting back to the Lansing State Journal article by Kathleen Lavey.  It is entitled:

8 sturgeon, more than 300 fishermen and a 66-minute season

Here are some excerpts:

GRANT TWP. – It’s the Friday night before winter sturgeon season starts on Black Lake, and Brian Bailey stands inside the door of a party tent, selling $5 admission buttons while wearing a crown and fake velvet cape with the image of a sturgeon on the back.

Inside, it feels like Christmas Eve. Volunteers in fleece and flannel sell tickets for beer and serve chili from slow cookers. With their shanties in place, fishermen and women listen to live, mostly country music, swap fish stories and discuss their hopes for the next morning.

Bailey earned the crown, cape and title of “Sturgeon King” by spearing the biggest fish out of six caught in 2016, a whopping 97-pound, 70½-inch female.

Now he’s presiding over the annual shivaree — the word denotes a noisy party — thrown by the Black Lake chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow. The group’s members have worked tirelessly to save the threatened prehistoric fish, a toothless, bottom-feeding giant that can grow up to 8 feet long and live for 150 years.

The brief, shining ice-fishing season — which begins on the first Saturday of February and can last an hour, five days or anything in between — is their moment to enjoy the results of their hard work.

He called it “exhilarating.”

“You can’t explain it,” he said, with a wide smile at the memory. “You’re pulling this thing through a 4-by-8-foot hole in the ice.”

This year, 332 licensed fishermen and women checked in at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources field office in Onaway or on the ice to pick up flags and tags, signs they had permission to peer through holes in the ice starting at 8 a.m. Feb. 4.

They set up shanties over the 15-square-mile lake’s dozen or so sandbars and readied their spears for a chance at catching the biggest fish Michigan’s lakes have to offer.

The brief, shining ice-fishing season — which begins on the first Saturday of February and can last an hour, five days or anything in between — is their moment to enjoy the results of their hard work.

The shivaree is an acknowledgment of efforts to restock sturgeon populations in Black Lake and nearby Mullet and Burt lakes. It celebrates the fact that spear-fishing is simply a way of life in the northeastern Lower Peninsula.

Here’s a short video from the article about this year’s Black Lake catch:

//www.lansingstatejournal.com/videos/embed/97868068/?fullsite=true

The full article describes this year’s goings-on in detail.  Click HERE to check it out.

Time for some local GE Pano shots. I’ll start with this by Jason Barnes, taken about a mile and a half SE of my landing:

A couple of guys walking their dogs. How pastoral. Wait!  Is that a dog next to the road taking a dump?  Moving right along . . .

I’m always a sucker for a scenic hay bale shot.  Here’s one (from 5 miles NW of my landing) by David Coats:

I’ll close with (what else) a sunset shot over Black Lake by David Martinez:

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

© 2017 A Landing A Day

 

 

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