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

2 days 18 hours ago

Lake Hiawatha updated their cover photo.

3 days 19 hours ago

A 9 hole compromise-

A letter sent to senator Jeff Hayden:

Hello senator Hayden,
My name is Sean Connaughty, I am resident in Standish. volunteer steward at Lake Hiawatha, co-founder of Friends of Lake Hiawatha and I am on the CAC that is supposed to be developing a solution for this parkland.
We met awhile back to talk about the Lake and Hiawatha Golf Course. I would like to talk about this with you again.

As you know the Park board will be voting on whether or not to allow the CAC to make recommendations on continuing pumping at current rates on July 25th.

I am interested in helping develop a compromise between advocates for saving Hiawatha Golf Course and the needs of the ecology.
Here are the basic issues:

1. Hiawatha Golf Course is important to many in the community.
2. The north pipe storm sewer needs to be dealt with.
3. Pumping at current rates is not sustainable nor ecologically responsible.
4. These pollution sources urgently need to be addressed.
5. Flood mitigation is needed in the community, including protecting homes.

I have asked about this and the MPRB has said that 9 holes of golf in a reduced pumping scenario can work and that the CAC can develop such a plan.
Having a 9 hole course would meet halfway between the interests of both sides of this debate. The pollution issues could be resolved, A climate resilient solution found, and public access provided while better protecting homes and still operating a 9 hole Hiawatha Golf Course. In this way we can honor the history of the course and maintain it as a community asset. I am excited for the potential to work together on an outcome that works for everyone in the community and that moves past the divisiveness currently poisoning our community.
What do you think of that possibility?

That solution would require compromises from both sides of this public debate.

9 holes of golf and wetland restoration, pollution mitigation and open public access to parts of these new wetland spaces.


Sean Connaughty

1 month 3 days ago

compiling a biodiversity list, can you add to this?

1 month 2 weeks ago

Plastic pollution kills animals. This is why the north storm sewer pipe urgently needs to be addressed. A ton of garbage enters Lake Hiawatha each year we do nothing.

We need to also pressure the producers that make plastic packaging. They should be taxed to fund cleaning up this mess that is global in scale. If you see litter in the streets, please pick it up.