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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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O'LEARY'S LAKE. While located below the ZEBULON PIKE LOCK AND DAM in Wisconsin, O'Leary's has been a popular fishing site for decades. Fed by natural underwater springs and water from the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, O'Leary's was a place fishermen could catch their limit of bluegills, bullheads, stripers, and even an occasional northern pike or walleye. The fish came into and left the lake through a channel that gradually filled in with gravel and debris. (1)

By 1960 the lake had become stagnate and unfit for swimming. With the channel blocked and winter freezes which suffocated the fish, the site became a health hazard. In late April, 1960 Leo McLaughlin and co-workers from the DUBUQUE PACKING COMPANY attacked the problem with shovels and began digging a channel across the forty-foot strip of sand. Their work was halted by the lockmaster who reminded them they needed permission of the commanding officer of the U. S. Army Corps of engineers at Rock Island. McLaughlin and his companions sent a letter to the commanding officer and to the Wisconsin Conservation Commission. (2)

Their efforts led the DUBUQUE COUNTY CONSERVATION SOCIETY to obtain a lease on the lake area. With the assistance of the 389th Engineer Construction Battalion, a channel was reopened to the river in 1984. The dredging was repeated in 1986 and 1987 with the assistance of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, 229th Engineer CSE Co., Detachment No. 1, Platteville, Wisconsin. (3)



1. Lagerstrom, Hal. "Fishing Hole 'Created.' Telegraph Herald, May 1, 1960, p. 15.

2. Ibid.

3. Leifker, David. "Dubuque County Conservation Society Celebrates 75 Years," Julien's Journal, April 2008, p. 75.