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

8 hours 58 minutes ago

Recommending Angela Conley for County Commissioner- vote today!

1 week 19 hours ago

More evidence of what we already knew.

2 weeks 8 hours ago

The Spirit of Compromise

A compromise was achieved by vote by our elected Park Board commissioners. Though it gives nobody everything they want, it meets the basic needs of all constituents including Lake Hiawatha. Homes will be protected, climate resiliency restored, pollution mitigated and the golf course preserved.

Now the community is asked to agree upon the compromise as well.
Here’s what’s asked of us in order for us to achieve compromise and move forward as a community:

1. Those who prioritize cleaning up the Lake and restoring sustainability will need to accept golf as a public use for this parkland. (Because of its value to the community, it’s historical importance, especially as it relates to the African American community.)
2. Those who prioritize golf will need to accept less than the current 18-hole configuration- (in order to accommodate infrastructure needs, the needs of other stakeholders, the ecology and the Lake.)
3. Non-golfers who want public access to this land will need to accept both priorities stated above.

The solution that meets the needs of the community and the ecology will need everyone involved. If either side is unwilling to compromise we all lose. Pollution will continue to devastate Lake Hiawatha and downstream waterways and ultimately, change will be forced upon us by a changing climate. We have had three years of this discussion and we have done absolutely nothing to address the pollution problem. Please come together and consider the needs of all stakeholders.

Picture an ecologically driven 9 hole course, which maintains the key community asset of HGC in a reduced pumping scenario, honors the African American history, cleans up the Lake and provides habitat and public access to spaces unusable for golf.

I am just one person in this community and an appointee on the CAC, but I accept this compromise.

Let’s get excited about the near future. May the CAC move forward now with the business of the masterplanning process.

2 weeks 6 days ago

Thank you Sierra Club North Star Chapter for supporting a clean Lake Hiawatha!

Meeting is this evening, 5PM at MPRB Headquarters. Sign up to speak by 3PM, basically now, CALL 612-230-6400