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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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ZOLLICOFFER'S LAKE. Zollicoffer's Lake was a popular picnic site north of Dubuque. Named for Jacob ZOLLICOFFER who owned the site, the location was a backwater area of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (1) It measured 1.5 miles long and between 5. and .75 miles wide. From soundings made in 1895 it was determined that the lake was between 4 and 10 feet in depth. The site located along the route of the CHICAGO, MILWAUKEE, AND ST. PAUL RAILROAD or they could travel there by steamboat. (2)

In 1876 CUSHING, FISCHER & COMPANY leased the lake for ICE HARVESTING. The company maintained an ice house at the site and visitors aboard the ferryboat "Key City" were able to see the loading of ice onto another ship on May 11, 1876. (3)

In 1895 the lake was considered as the site for the state rowing regattas. Spirit Lake did not want to be a host and Storm Lake had gotten a bad reputation due to bad weather in 1894. Timber surrounding were seen as beneficial as they would shield craft from winds. High bluffs were "so close to it that in the afternoon they will shade the audience making parasols or roof on the amphitheater unnecessary." The DUBUQUE BOAT CLUB recognized that the citizens of Dubuque would have to establish a guarantee fund and planning would be necessary to recruit musical entertainment and steamboat excursions. It was thought the week's events would end with a dress ball. (4)

The Dubuque Daily Herald took up the cause of the boat club while listing some of the demands hosting the regatta would involve. Former host cities had provided transportation of the oarsmen and their boats, reduced rates at the hotels, special rates by the railroad, and reduced hotel rates for the planning committee. "Each night there would be parties, balls, concerts, excursions...our society people would be taxed to their utmost resources to entertain their guests." (5)

The place remained popular until the 1930s when the ZEBULON PIKE LOCK AND DAM flooded it.

While most people rode the train up and back as paying passengers, some adventurous young people were said to take another route home. Hopping freight trains in the winter, they rode to the frozen lake and skated all day. When exhausted, they unfurled a large sheet. With each person holding on, the sheet was hoisted like a sail, and the wind blew them south to Dubuque over the frozen river. (6)



1. "Aquatic," Dubuque Herald, May 11, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760511&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "That Regatta," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 26, 1895, p. 8. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18950326&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. "In Dead Earnest," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 13, 1895, p. 8

6. Interview with Norman Zepeski, August 1987