“Walk with me by the tan, tan waters,
We’ll stare at the lake and look for the sky,
We’re-a lookin’ here for somebody’s daughter,
Perhaps we’ll find her, by and by.”
– Houston “Flublind” Carter 1955
Tanwater Lake Recreational Area has always held a deep resonance for Flubug residents. It was here, when the region was first established, that early settlers learned the finesse of fishing, shooting and “grabblin'” while seeking escape from their industrial hell. Some, like Rutherford B. Spillchuck, went on to make Tanwater their home. Others, like “Flublind” Carter, the roving troubador whose woeful medleys popularized the lake for a war-weary generation, chose to visit the lake for occasional inspiration.
But all have been touched by its natural beauty.
The origins of the lake’s name remain a mystery. Some maintain it derives from the term “TinWaWa!” coined by local Indians as they were led into nearby rapids. Others believe it grew popular after a crude tannery was established on the lake’s west shore that poured tan colored runoff into the basin for a century.
Yet despite the debate, the lake’s popularity and that of its surrounding woodlands has grown steadily throughout the years, despite menacing fires, mining mishaps, child-nappings and the rampant contamination that now keeps even mosquitos at bay..
Tanwater today offers Flubuggers (and visitors!) the chance to relax, enjoy family activities, hunt possum or participate in a wide range of outdoor and recreational opportunities. Here are a few of the many highlights you’ll find:
Ranger Tours – Led by long time Park Ranger Bruce Spillchuck, this is the easiest and safest way to explore Tanwater. Tours depart the Ring Road Ranger Station at 10am and 2pm most days except Mondays
Jenny’s Jetty – This haunting land mass, with its graceful curve, was built by the original search and rescue team in the Jenny Overmeyer case as part of their futile effort to locate her body and solve the infamous abduction in 1955. It’s still a favorite with local naturalists who hunt oversized insects and evolutionary oddities from its promontories. The Overmeyer case was popularized in 1958 by legendary folk hero, “Flublind” Carter who released his “The Abduction of Jenny” on the Overmeyer label that same year and became Flubug’s most famous resident (lyrics above). Sightings of Jenny continue to this day and can be recorded in the handy glass-covered tome at the entrance to the jetty.
Bluffer’s Bluff – From its commanding presence high above the north end of the lake, Bluffer’s Bluff has always been a favorite “jumping off” spot for Flubug youth. Until recently it was also the culprit in dozens of Tanwater Toe cases reported by jumpers who encountered sharp boulders beneath the water. A sign has since been erected that alerts jumpers to the hazards and all seems to be fine.
Spotter’s Field – As Tanwater’s only source of potable water, this breezy expanse is a popular draw for out-of-state RV-ers. It’s also popular with the locals. In fact, with the economic downturn, it’s become so popular that bleachers were erected to help locals get a better view of out-of-state license plates, hubcaps and other potentially valuable booty.
The Canyard – At the turn of the twentieth century, with the steady growth of Graphite Corners, the south end of the lake was the preferred dumping ground for the area’s residential waste. When The Dump relocated, the area became overgrown. But it was rediscovered a generation later by the Treasures and Trash crowd who flocked to the area after the famed “Quaker State Strike” of 1997. In that strike, A.T. Price unearthed the oldest oil can ever discovered in Down County, valued at nearly $70. The famous can may be viewed today in the permanent collection at the Down County Historical Society Museum in the Overmeyer Mansion.