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 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 Water at Lake Hiawatha

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board had been pumping far more water out of stormwater ponds into the lake than allowed by its state permit allowing it to pump water to sprinkle the course. The Park Board now is working with the city and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to explore options for the situation involving both continuing to pump and turning off the pumps. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources determines who may pump groundwater. If the Park Board stopped pumping, most of the former wetland that was dredged to make the golf course will flood at least periodically in substantial rains… 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

Lake Hiawatha

3 days 8 hours ago

Thanks for making care of our water bodies a top priority, Russ! Water connects us all.

Water Protection

It's time for the city of lakes to take a long, hard look at the state of our bodies of water. From public beach closures to shorelines covered in garbage to micropollutants entering our water ways from our roads, there are several areas in which we can and must improve our city's relationship to water. The Minneapolis Park Board has a responsibility implement programs and practices that will start to protect the bodies of water in and around Minneapolis for generations to come.

As park commissioner I'd enlist the help of watershed management organizations and independent scientists to update our water quality monitoring methods to include monitoring of solid waste pollution such as garbage from our street sewers along with micropollutants including road salt and common landscaping chemicals. Then I'd work with city, county, state, and watershed government organizations to plan for and implement water protecting solutions over all of our park system. It is time to get the garbage, landscaping chemicals, and road salts out of our bodies of water.

From restored wetlands that can filter water and remove pollution to a public engagement campaign to uplift water protection as a community responsibility, to a complete overhaul of our soil management to prevent erosion and pollution, I'd work to protect the amazing bodies of water with which Minneapolis is blessed.

Lake Hiawatha

1 week 2 days ago

Lake Hiawatha updated their profile picture.

Lake Hiawatha

1 week 2 days ago

Was very tempted to run this ad... but will just post a screenshot. Go Rice Lake!

Lake Hiawatha

2 weeks 1 day ago

I heard the Parks are looking for engineering and design proposals to create solutions for the current groundwater and storm water issues at Lake Hiawatha. Here's what I hope happens. Sean