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    Fort McCoy’s Suukjak Sep Lake continues to be an easily accessible place of beauty at post’s Pine View Recreation Area

    December 2022 winter scenes at Fort McCoy's Suujak Sep Lake in Pine View Recreation Area

    Photo By Scott Sturkol | A winter scene of Suukjak Sep Lake at Pine View Campground in the Pine View Recreation...... read more read more

    Whether it’s the heart of summer or the height of winter, Fort McCoy’s Suukjak Sep Lake in the installation’s Pine View Recreation Area is a place of beauty and a source of outdoor recreation for visitors to the recreation area.

    The lake is surrounded by Pine View Campground, which is managed by Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR). Right next to the lake are 16 cabins that are available to rent year-round, and from May 1 to Nov. 30 annually, campsites at Pine View Campground are near the lake as well.

    The lake was formerly known as Squaw Lake but was renamed in 2016 through a cooperative effort between Fort McCoy, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the state of Wisconsin.

    In an article announcing the change in July 2016 in The Real McCoy newspaper, it states, “Water bodies located next to Pine View Campground on Fort McCoy’s North Post have been renamed to Suukjak Sep (pronounced sook-junk-sep) Lake and Suukjak Sep Creek to honor the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin — a federally recognized tribe indigenous to the installation’s area of Wisconsin. The water bodies were formerly known as Squaw Lake and Squaw Creek.”

    The new name, Suukjak Sep, translates to “black wolf” in the Ho-Chunk language. The lake is a manmade impoundment on the creek. The creek itself was named Squaw Creek sometime in the mid-1800s.

    In the article, former Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB) Chief Mark McCarty said, “The old name of the creek and lake was a product of a very different time in American history and is seen as offensive by the Ho-Chunk people. Fort McCoy was asked for assistance by the Ho-Chunk Nation to see what steps were needed to get the name changed.”

    Alexander Woods, Ph.D., an archaeologist with Colorado State University’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands who worked in partnership with NRB at the time with cultural resources added in the story, “It was labeled as Squaw Creek on an 1858 map of Monroe County. The name is supposedly due to the presence of a large Ho-Chunk camp nearby. The Ho-Chunk did in fact have a large village site in the area, and it is known as Suukjak Sep. Since the name Squaw Creek was originally referencing the presence of this Ho-Chunk community, it is fitting that the new name reflects this.”

    Fort McCoy did not have the authority to rename the creek and lake, McCarty said.

    “The Ho-Chunk Nation was the applicant in the renaming process, and Fort McCoy assisted them in completing the paperwork and sending it forward to state and federal levels,” McCarty said in the article. Official notification that the re-naming the 7.5-mile creek and 14-acre lake was approved came in a letter from Executive Secretary Lou Yost with the U.S. Board on Geo-graphic Names of the U.S. Geological Survey to Monroe County Administrator Cathy Schmit in Sparta, Wis., in mid-May 2016.

    “The changes have been made in the Geographic Names Information System, the nation’s official geographic names repository,” Yost wrote.

    “The use of the Ho-Chunk name is especially appropriate given current efforts to revitalize the Ho-Chunk language,” McCarty said.

    The Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland in 2016 said the lake and creek renaming effort was appreciated. “It’s a great honor to have the leadership of Fort McCoy recognize the rich history and culture of the Ho-Chunk Nation,” Cleveland said. “Renaming the lake (and creek) in our sacred language is a show of great respect and also signifies the strong relationship we’ve had through the years.”

    In May 2022, Fort McCoy renewed a memorandum of understanding with the Ho-Chunk Nation so that continued respect between the installation and the Hop-Chunk people continues, including in taking care of Suukjak Sep Lake and Suukjak Sep Creek.

    “Thank you for your kind presence here today as we reaffirmed this memorandum of understanding with Fort McCoy the U.S. Army as well and the federal government and the Ho-Chunk Nation,” said current Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle at the memorandum signing ceremony May 10 in Black River Falls, Wis. “I’ve been in this role here since 2019 as the Ho-Chunk Nation president, and it’s humbling for me to take part today in the recognition of the respectful relationship that we have with the federal government and particularly here today with the colonel reaffirming the relationship … and this respectful collaboration with the nation to preserve the … ancestral land.”

    The lake itself, at 14 acres, is large enough to offer good fishing opportunities year-round, said DFMWR Recreational Specialist Alex Karis. Annually, every spring, the lake is stocked with thousands of rainbow trout and the creek and lake also have a natural habitat for numerous freshwater species of fish.

    One activity in winter people can try on Suukjak Sep Creek includes participating in Wisconsin’s early inland trout waters catch-and-release fishing season, which prospective anglers can partake in below the lake’s impoundment dam leading to the La Crosse River. Anglers must have the required Fort McCoy fishing license and related Wisconsin fishing license and trout stamp to be able to fish on the installation.

    The early inland trout waters catch-and-release fishing season takes place from 5 a.m. on the first Saturday in January to the Friday preceding the first Saturday in May at midnight. In 2023, that would mean the season starts on Jan. 6, 2023. Learn more about fishing rules and requirements for Fort McCoy by visiting the Fort McCoy iSportsman page at

    “Suukjak Sep Lake also offers a place for anglers to try their hand at ice fishing,” Karis said. “As long as there is enough ice, the lake is easily accessible from our cabins at the campground which are available to rent all winter long.”

    And during warmer weather, when the campground is open, there’s a swimming beach on the lake, and people can also rent canoes and kayaks, and so much more, Karis said.

    The lake really adds to the reasons why the recreation area and the campground is special,” Karis said.

    Learn more about activities in the Pine View Recreation Area by going online to or visit Fort McCoy DFMWR on Facebook at

    Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.” Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base.



    Date Taken: 12.22.2022
    Date Posted: 12.23.2022 00:36
    Story ID: 435826

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