Mercury’s Lake-X – Part One

Kelly Johnson of Lockheed fame had his Skunk Works. Mercury Marine's Carl Kiekhaefer had his Lake-X. Shown the the building where Kiekhafer and his crew of mechanics, drivers and engineers secretly worked on Mercury outboards for nearly half  century.

Kelly Johnson of Lockheed fame had his Skunk Works. Mercury Marine’s Carl Kiekhaefer had his Lake-X. Shown is the building where Kiekhafer and his crew of mechanics, drivers and engineers secretly worked on Mercury outboards for nearly half century. Photo Brenda Serrano.

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending this year’s precursor to ICAST, a function known as Tackle-X, held on the hallowed grounds of Mercury Marine’s mysterious Lake-X. An “invite only” event, Tackle-X would bring industry, media and the Kirchman Foundation together for a relaxed day at the lake to talk fishing, meet with old friends and new, and visit a place few have tread on. Here’s the lead-in to the invite:

“If you can’t find Lake X on a map, it’s no accident. The legend and mystery of Lake X are the creation of Carl Kiekhaefer (1906-1983), the founder of Mercury Marine. For nearly 30 years he used the 1,400-acre lake as his private test facility and as part of his marketing efforts. He wanted someplace far from competitors’ prying eyes, and he found it with Lake Conlin, as the lake is officially identified.

One of Kiekhaefer’s most famous publicity efforts began on Sept. 11, 1957 when two Mercury Mark 75 outboards began an endurance run that lasted 34 days, 11 hours, 47 minutes and 5.4 seconds. Each of the two boats completed 4,516 laps of the lake course and 25,003.286 miles — slightly more than the circumference of Earth. The engines were refueled and the drivers changed out while the boats were on the run, averaging 30.3 mph for more than a month!”

If you thought I would pass on this invite, you’re sorely mistaken. To go to Lake-X is a dream I’ve had for many years and this would finally allow me to scratch that box off my bucket list.

As part of the media, I looked at this opportunity differently. Yes industry would be there with all their new gadgets and gizmos, normally a writer’s dream. What I was mostly interested in, though, was the mystique of the lake, the former owners and the testing that went on here for more than half a century.

To my knowledge no one has ever videoed Lake-X for the public. On July 15, 2014, I not only had the opportunity to video the lake, I was able to get Elite Series angler Bernie Schultz and former Mercury Marine employee, John Litjens (who worked for Mercury for 45 years and ran Lake-X for a number of years) to do an interview of the lake for us. It’s a pretty cool look into the lake and its mystery for all who have been involved with outboard motors.

We hope you enjoy the video. Part Two will air tomorrow.

 

  • Andy Williamson

    Any way to eliminate the distracting extraneous noise for part 2?

    • Terry Battisti

      Andy, we spent 3 hours trying to get rid of the background noise and that’s what we ended up with. It’s 100% better than it was. Sorry but this was our first attempt at video. Trust me it bothers us too.

  • Ken Duke

    Great stuff, Terry! Glad you made it out there!