Trail Spring (Nip’į Nągú)

"At Nakoma, on the west side of Lake Wingra, is the Do-gee-rah Spring [Trail Spring], taking its name from the pre-pioneer Winnebago camp once located here. This spring, located on the Nakoma road, is now improved with a stone masonry setting. This is one of the springs, according to an Indian belief, through which the spirits of animals entered the spirit world."1

"The Gorham Spring is located by the side of the Nakoma road, opposite the site of the old Spring Grove tavern, in Nakoma, now occupied by James G. Dickson as a residence. This fine spring was known to the Winnebago Indians who camped in early days at this place, as "Nibin-na-goo," or the trail spring. The name of the local Winnebago camp or village which was located both on the ridge above the tavern and on the flat south of the spring was known as “Do-gee-rah”, meaning summer village. At this spring the pioneer drivers of ox teams stopped to refresh their oxen. Senator Robert M. La Follette's father, and uncles were among these. The country road was then located on the west side of the old brick tavern, running southward through the woods over the site of the present Nakoma school and beyond. Deer and other wild animals also came to this spring to drink in early days of settlement. The spring has this year been beautified by a limestone wall and stairs designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In early days water was hauled from this spring by all of the farmers of this region who had no good wells. They came from as far away as the Verona road, generally bringing two or three barrels on a wagon."2

"The old Winnebago Indian name for Lake Wingra was Ki-chunk-och-hep-er-rah, meaning the "place where the turtle comes up." These Indians have a belief that springs are the places through which animals enter the spirit world: hence a former custom of casting tobacco, stone and bone implements, and other articles into springs to obtain the 'blessings' of these animals. The name wingra, or Weengra, as it appears on some early maps, means duck and is said to be also a Winnebago name for this lake. This lake was also known to early settlers of Madison as Dead Lake because of a former belief that it has no outlet. This was an error, since its waters flow to Lake Monona through Murphy Creek."3

Commentary. "Do-gee-rah" — this is Togira, "Summer."

"Nibin-na-goo" this is for Nįp’į Nągú, "Good-Water Trail." 

"Ki-chunk-och-hep-er-rah" — for Kecąk-hoxepera, from kecąk, "turtle"; ho-, "the place or time at which"; xep, "to escape, to arise"; and -ra, the definite article.

"wingra" — for wįǧera, from wįx, "duck."

Links: ...

Stories: mentioning springs: Vita Spring, Merrill Springs, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Bear Clan Origin Myth, vv. 6, 8, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Bluehorn's Nephews, Blue Mounds, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Lost Child, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Wild Rose, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, The Two Brothers, Snowshoe Strings, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Nannyberry Picker, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, The Two Boys, Waruǧábᵉra, Wazųka, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Turtle and the Witches; set at Lake Wingra: The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Big Spring and White Clay Spring, The Mesquaki Magician.

Themes: animals enter Spiritland through a spring: Merrill Springs, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter.


1 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Legends of Historic and Scenic Wisconsin, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1947) 9.

2 Charles E. Brown, "The Springs of Lake Wingra," Wisconsin Magazine of History, 10, #3 (March, 1927) 298-303 [300]. Special thanks to Kathy Miner who sent me a copy of this.

3 Brown, "The Springs of Lake Wingra," 302-303.