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

1 week 2 days ago

Words that will shape the vision from the CAC meeting. There are more from public comments forms not listed here. We were prompted to think creative, even absurd ideas. IF you were unable to attend this evening’s meeting you can go to this form and add your own visionary words, post a photo, and/or write a poem or story: https://form.jotform.com/composidore/lake-hiawatha-visioning

1 week 3 days ago

Here's the Agenda for this Wednesday evening's CAC meeting on Hiawatha Park/ the golf course property (6-8pm at Pearl Recreation Center Gym) The evening includes a presentation by design team lead and CAC member visioning exercises, followed by opportunities for the public to comment on the vision statement.

Also, focus sessions will be formed for future meetings based on these topics: Golf, African American History at Minneapolis Golf Courses, Indigenous People's History at the site, Environment, and Neighbor's with low basement elevations. Come to this meeting if you would like to comment and get more involved in any of the focus sessions. There will be an opportunity to participate with vision boards at the end of the meeting if you prefer not to speak in a public setting.

"A vision statement describes what the group hopes that the Hiawatha Golf Course area becomes through the implementation of the master plan. This is typically a one-sentence statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from the master planning process, intended to help the organization make decisions that align with its declared set of goals and to guide the development of the master plan. It is important to keep in mind that the vision statement is a high-level statement that captures the inspiration for the future, but at this point does not identify all the specific details of the master plan will address. These more specific items will be defined as we move through the process."

3 weeks 1 day ago

Friends, Would you support asking the Hiawatha Golf Course property masterplanning CAC to prioritize stormwater mitigation and to establish protections for existing habitat zones? Given that 10,000 lbs. of trash will accumulate in 5 years, continued delays are problematic. Critical habitat areas include the Creek delta and parts of the western shore of the Lake where wildlife reside. I hope these modest areas can be off limits for any disruptions or development.

3 weeks 5 days ago

So we have been sorting and counting the trash that was collected on our September 8th cleanup of Lake Hiawatha. We had 40 volunteers and the result of 3 hours of cleanup was 226 lbs. of mostly plastic trash. Despite this effort, the Lake is still impaired with lots of trash, especially after the last big rain. We want the City of Minneapolis and the MPRB to prioritize a comprehensive mitigation system for the north pipe storm sewer. Also to take over cleanup responsibilities. Looks like the most numerous item is going to be plastic wrappers, which we are still processing. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped clean, attended the exhibition and those who helped sort the trash. Our total for cleanup since 2015 is 5,620 lbs. removed from Lake Hiawatha.