Our Vision is nothing less than a clean and healthy Lake Hiawatha supportive of a thriving ecosystem and community

Our Mission is to revive the health of Lake Hiawatha
by inspiring policy action and fostering community ownership

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Friends of Lake Hiawatha

is dedicated to improving the quality of Lake Hiawatha through community engagement, educational outreach, and good governance through effective partnerships with other organizations and public officials.

Lake Hiawatha History

Prior to 1854, the land that encompasses present day Lake Hiawatha, the Chain of Lakes, and the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, was the spiritual center and home of the Dakota Sioux tribe. The community settled on the shores of Bde Maka Ska (formerly known as Lake Calhoun) and actively foraged, farmed, and hunted for survival. Plant species that they foraged include: blueberries, wild spikenard, wild turnips, spatterdock root, water lily, wild rice, acorns, and bittersweet vine.

They farmed very selectively using a no till, no drill method. Natural land cover was comprised of oak, elm, basswood, ash, and maple trees with oak openings and barrens. With European and French Canadian expansion into Minnesota the Dakota became involved in the fur trade, primarily harvesting muskrat and beaver pelts.

In 1854, the land was surveyed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management and the names of European landowners appear on the parcels adjacent to the Lake. The City of Minneapolis was established in 1856 and Minnesota became a State on May 11, 1858. The Dakota War took place in 1862 and in 1863 an act of the United States Congress expelled the Dakota from Minnesota. They were relocated in Nebraska and South Dakota.

By 1867, Minneapolis achieved final incorporation. As the City developed so did the need for land planning and a board of 12 park commissioners was appointed in 1883. Horace Cleveland, a landscape architect, is hired and proposes a vast park system that encompasses the Chain of Lakes including Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River. Lakes Calhoun, Harriet, and Isles are named. Present day Lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis were renamed from Rice Lake and Mother Lake. The name Hiawatha is a reference to the great Iroquois chief immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha”.

Although the shoreline of Lake Hiawatha has been altered over time Cleveland’s vision of a series of open green spaces connecting the urban areas of Minneapolis remains. Tiny vestiges of the open oak barren forest remain and the Dakota have made a return to heal the landscape.

Minneapolis’ diverse community of today has come together to create a clean Lake Hiawatha.

Storm Sewers Dump into Lake

The storm sewers from many miles of streets in South Minneapolis are draining pollution and trash directly into Lake Hiawatha. Please sign this petition to persuade the organizations involved to collaborate in creating an effective system of mitigation in order to clean up the pollutants before they enter the lake. Sign the petition here…

Pumping Ground Water at Lake Hiawatha

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been pumping far more water out of stormwater ponds into the lake than allowed by its state permit. Due to the fact that the golf course is situated below the water table, resides in a floodplain and is sinking, intensive pumping is required to maintain a dry golf course. Continued pumping increases the rate of soil subsidence (sinking) thus requiring ever more pumping in order to keep the golf course dry. The Minneapolis Park Board now is working with the City and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to explore different land configurations, now that it has been decided to reduce pumping to 94 million gallons annually from 240 million.. Read more…

Trash accumulates

103 bags of garbage were cleaned from Lake Hiawatha in 2015. Items from a sample collection were identified, sorted and counted. The sample collection was removed from the entire circumference of the Lake. The artifacts were extracted from shallow water and the shore. Read more…

Minnehaha Creek Clean-Up

Celebrating 10 years of cleaning the creek with headquarters at Lake Hiawatha Park. Read more…

Research and Writing Credit: Annette Walby


Current News

6 days 21 hours ago

Today is Mother's Day, and yesterday, 61 people volunteered their time to tend to a part of Mother Earth at Lake Hiawatha. Truly an amazing effort on a beautiful day! I am grateful for all who volunteered, and I hope our efforts to categorize, weigh and record our collections will heighten awareness of the gravity of this ongoing problem affecting the health of Lake Hiawatha. Three eagles circled overhead as we began yesterday, and I am going to assume they were expressing gratitude too. Perhaps, someday, we can simply celebrate clean water resources!

1 week 10 hours ago

Here are a few more photos from our Earth Day Clean-up at the lake. Thank you so much, to all of you who participated in this event!!! And thank you to our brightly colored onlookers that brought music to our ears...American Redstart, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, Palm Warbler, and many not photographed.

1 week 12 hours ago

This was pulled out of Lake Hiawatha yesterday day by approximately thirty volunteers. 240 lbs of mostly plastic and styrofoam. Unfortunately, we were only able to clean a small portion of the trash that is currently in the Lake. The shores are still littered with trash, with more to come as the next rainfall washes the contents of the streets of south Minneapolis right into the Lake and on down the Mississippi River and onward to the gulf of Mexico. There were helpers from Cameroon and Cuba! Everyone worked so hard to clean, it was really inspiring! it really does make a difference for the Lake and the wildlife. Let's get some mitigation on that storm pipe! like now! Thanks to Penny Fuller, Roxanne Stuhr, Chesney Engquist, Westminster Presbyterian and the Friends of Lake Hiawatha for putting it all together!

1 week 5 days ago

Yes! We need more permeable surfaces in our watershed so that water infiltrates slower into the water table instead of straight into our water bodies via our storm sewer system. Exciting to see this project happen!