If you’ve been to Bayfield before, you may already be familiar with these phrases, or perhaps you heard them, but never knew exactly what was meant. We are here to help you out with your Bayfield vocabulary and make you feel like a local – just in time for your next trek north.
When visiting Bayfield and the surrounding area, here are a few phrases and vocabulary words with which you may want to be familiar:
1. Chequamegon (prounounced “shi-wa-me-gone”) is a Ojibwe word meaning “place of shallow water” referring to the Chequamegon Bay on which Bayfield sits. The Red Cliff Reservation, home to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and its rich history provide many of the area’s names for places and sacred heritage locations throughout the peninsula. The Legendary Waters Casino, just three miles from Bayfield, offers an exhibit area showing Ojibwe history for those interested in the cultural background of the Ojibwe people in the area.
2. Ice Road – yes, it is a real thing. Most years, Lake Superior freezes in Chequamegon Bay to the point where the Madeline Island Ferry Line must stop running boats back and forth to service Madeline Island’s year-round population.
In a “typical” year, there is about a week or two between when the ferry stops running and when the ice road is solid enough to support vehicle traffic. During this period, a wind sled (see definition below) is used to transport islanders to and from work and school. The ice road, once formed, actually becomes a State highway. Locals drag discarded Christmas trees to either the mainland or island side to assist with the marking of the road in case of blowing or drifting snow. When conditions warrant, the road is plowed.
3. Whitefish Livers are a local delicacy in Bayfield. A strong commercial fishing industry operates nearly year-round, providing Lake Superior whitefish and lake trout to nearby restaurants and shipping other catches such as herring and smelt to far-flung outlets. Whitefish livers really are the liver of the whitefish, similar in size and texture to a chicken liver, though known for their unique taste.
Livers (as locals shorten it) are often prepared by dredging the liver in flour or cornmeal and frying them until crispy on the outside. Try them served with red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, and dipped in special sauce for the ultimate experience. Maggie’s and Gruenke’s in Bayfield are just a few spots offering the delicious treat. At least you can say you tried them!
4. Mushing is the term used to describe the activity of dog sledding. What’s the best way to enjoy a winter thrill you ask? We’d assert that one way to enjoy winter is by whizzing across the glistening snow behind a team of dogs who just want to RUN! Check out the Old Rittenhouse Inn mushing packages in coordination with Wolfsong Adventures in Mushing and make plans to come see what all the fun is about!
5. The famous ice caves, made popular via social media when they were accessible in the winter of 2013-14 and again the following year, are sea caves in the summer and are located on the northern tip of the Bayfield Peninsula. The caves do form each year, but as they can only be seen from the water, conditions must be just right to form ice strong enough to hold the walking public hearty enough to make the one-mile (one way) trek across the ice to view the caves.
During the summer, the mainland sea caves are accessible by boat – kayak, sailboat, motor boat – and often draw large crowds. Similarly formed caves can also be seen on others of the Apostle Islands, most notably Devil’s Island. Visitors see the Devil’s Island caves on the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands Cruise Service.
6. The wind sled is used to transport Madeline Islanders to the mainland on those years when the bay freezes enough to force the Madeline Island Ferry Line to stop running its boats. The wind sled is used in the short time (about a week or two, depending on conditions) in between the time when the ferry stops running and until the ice road opens.
The wind sled is a boat with a large motor (think of the air boats you might see in the Everglades) meant to skim across the top of the ice but will float if met with thin ice. It’s a noisy operation, but those living full-time on Madeline Island depend on this important form of transportation to go between the mainland and the island.
7. Off-season is the term used to describe the period of time, typically between the Annual Bayfield Apple Festival and Memorial Day (give or take), when life slows down in Bayfield. Areas businesses move to weekend hours and special rates on overnight stays go into effect. Winter activities and festivities fill many weekends throughout the off-season. Some visitors specifically plan their trips to the area for the off-season to avoid the large crowds and the risk of sunburn…
8. Ghost boat refers to the last Madeline Island Ferry Line trip of the night – often an unscheduled boat allowing the MIFL to put their boats in place for the next morning’s trips. As these trips are unscheduled, it’s not recommended that visitors count on their being “one last boat” either to or from Madeline Island. However, those in the know can be saved from being stranded on one side of the water or the other by the ghost boat on any given summer night.
Once you’ve mastered your Bayfield vocabulary (these terms and phrases being only a few), be sure to plan your next trip north to try out your new-found knowledge on the locals. Unless we happen to glimpse your license plates or detect a hint of an accent, we might just think you’re a summer local who knows their stuff!
When think you’re ready to try out your Bayfield vocabulary, book a getaway to our elegant Bayfield bed and breakfast. And of course, any time you have questions on terms or are looking for recommendations on what to do in the area – any time of year – the friendly staff at the Old Rittenhouse Inn stand ready to assist! Book online today!