Thursday, August 14, 2008
Grass Lake & Fox Lake Tour
I toured Grass Lake and Fox Lake this week as a member of the Lake-McHenry Historical Alliance. This tour was a treat for the group who meet quarterly to support each other's efforts in preservation and museum work. As historians it was an incredible opportunity to learn more about a significant part of Lake County's past--the resort industry--from the vantage point of the lakes, and with a knowledgeable and very witty local guide.
Clem Haley, our guide, (at center holding picture frame), balanced the resort history with the history of lakes' ecology and present-day conversation efforts.
My view of the lotus was nothing like this spectacular postcard of Grass Lake from the 1910s. At that time, the lotus covered all of Grass Lake. Today, they are limited to an area of 200+ acres. In order to protect the beds, we viewed them from a distance, but the beautiful pale yellow blossoms were clearly in bloom.
One of the stories I like to tell people about the lotus is the "Legend of the Lotus." The lotus caused quite a tourism sensation from the 1880s to 1940s. Vacationers were drawn by word of their beauty and by the legend. The legend, created out of a combination of naiveté and marketing, stated that the lotus actually originated in Egypt and were brought to Lake County by bird or by an early settler. This myth made for great advertisements and was generally accepted as fact by area residents, but simply wasn’t true.
The lotus, known as Nelumbo lutea, or American lotus, grow not only in the Chain O’ Lakes, but also in Illinois’ major rivers and lakes and ponds, and shallow water areas throughout the eastern United States.