Lake Harriet (Minnesota)

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For other places with the same name, see Lake Harriet.
Lake Harriet
Bandshell at Lake Harriet, 2006
Location Minneapolis, Minnesota
Coordinates 44°55′17″N 93°18′19″W / 44.92139°N 93.30528°W / 44.92139; -93.30528Coordinates: 44°55′17″N 93°18′19″W / 44.92139°N 93.30528°W / 44.92139; -93.30528
Basin countries United States
Surface area 335 acres (1.36 km2)
Max. depth 85 feet (26 m)

Lake Harriet is a lake in the southwest part of Minneapolis, just south of Lake Calhoun and north of Minnehaha Creek. The lake is surrounded by parkland as part of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The lake has an area of 335 acres (1.36 km2) and a maximum depth of 85 feet (26 m).

Lake Harriet is very popular for recreation. It offers sailing, two beaches, and a system of bike and pedestrian trails (about 3.05 miles (4.91 km) for the bike trail and 2.95 miles (4.75 km) for the pedestrian trail). The trail and parkway system, part of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, connects with Lake Calhoun on the north end via William Berry Parkway and with the Minnehaha Creek trail system on the southeast corner. The north end of the lake also offers a bandshell, which is used in the summer months for concerts, and a refreshment stand. A preserved section of the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line runs between Lake Calhoun and the west side of Lake Harriet. It is a popular spot for Ingress Players and Geocachers.


Lake Harriet is named for Harriet Lovejoy, who lived with her husband Colonel Henry Leavenworth[1] at Fort Snelling. The two came to the area in 1819. The lake and surrounding land was last owned by Colonel William S. King who donated the land to Minneapolis in 1885.

The lake was called "Mde Unma," meaning "other lake" by the local Dakota people.[2]

Lake Harriet pavilion complex, sailboats on the lake, and Minneapolis skyline.

The bandshell[edit]

Bandshell at Lake Harriet

A public pavilion has been located on the northern side of Lake Harriet since 1888, when a pavilion was erected on the property of Thomas Lowry. This first pavilion stood on the edge of Lake Harriet until 1891 when it was destroyed by fire. After the fire, Minneapolis hired architect Harry Wild Jones to design the next bandshell. Designed in a pagoda-like style, the second pavilion overlooked the lake until 1903 when it too was destroyed by fire. A third classical revival-style pavilion, again designed by Jones, was built in 1904. It was destroyed on July 8, 1925 in a windstorm, killing two people who were among a group which had taken refuge inside it. After the loss of this pavilion, a small bandstand was built on the site as a temporary replacement. The bandstand remained until it was replaced by the current bandshell structure which was built in 1986.[3][4]

The picture above at left shows the current bandshell in blue, but in 2004 developer Mark McGowan organized an all-volunteer completely free restoration of the buildings. To complete the free restoration, McGowan obtained $650,000 in donated labor and materials from local and national companies. Through these efforts, the bandshell, refectory and sailing club have been repaired and repainted to a light brown color, shown above right. To celebrate the free restoration, an all-day music festival, called "Lake Harriet Live!, was held September 19, 2004.

During the fall of 2006, construction of a new patio and picnic shelter built to match the design of the original buildings was begun next to the concessions. Construction of the new building and picnic area have been completed.

Other features[edit]

NWA Plane headed for MSP Airport
Lake Harriet's "elf house"

The lake is in a direct line with two of the main runways at the Minneapolis—Saint Paul International Airport, and airplanes are frequently seen flying overhead.

On the walking path near where Queen Avenue T's into the perimeter drive around the lake, there is an "elf house" carved into the base of an ash tree. For several years, one could leave a letter for the elf supposedly living there and find a letter in reply sometime in the next few days. During the winter season, the elf door is shut and a plank appears stating he has "moved to his castle in the east." It reopens around springtime.

Other parkland near the lake includes a picnic ground just north of the bandshell, Lyndale Park, and the Thomas Sadler Roberts bird sanctuary on the northeast corner of the lake. Located adjacent to the bird sanctuary is the tranquil Peace Garden, and across the street is a large garden featuring many varieties of roses. Lakewood Cemetery is located between the southeast corner of Lake Calhoun and the north shoreline of Lake Harriet.

Located just 2 blocks West is the quaint shopping district of Linden Hills, often referred to as "a small town in the City".[citation needed]


The lake contains black crappie, bluegill, golden shiner, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, pumpkinseed, walleye, white sucker, yellow bullhead, and yellow perch. Some fish consumption guideline restrictions have been placed on the lake's bluegill, carp, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, white sucker, and yellow perch due to mercury and/or PFOS contamination.[5]

In 1998, a dead female lake sturgeon weighing 105 pounds (48 kg) and 6.3 feet (1.9 m) long was found washed ashore on the lake. Sturgeon were thought to no longer exist in the lake or the Minnehaha Creek watershed. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials speculated it may have been released into the lake when young by a fisheries employee during the mid-20th century. It is also possible the fish was a descendant of sturgeon which migrated into the lake thousands of years ago prior to the formation of Minnehaha Falls.[6][7]


  1. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 150. 
  2. ^ Cairn, Rich and Susan (2003). "History of Minnehaha Creek Watershed" (PDF). p. 19. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  3. ^ Millett, Larry (2007). AIA Guide to the Twin Cities: The Essential Source on the Architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minnesota Historical Socety. pp. 219–224. ISBN 9780873515405. 
  4. ^ Millett, Larry (2009). AIA Guide to the Minneapolis Lake District. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 72. ISBN 9780873516457. 
  5. ^ "Lake information report: Minnesota DNR". MN DNR. MN DNR. 2005-07-11. 
  6. ^ Anderson, Dennis (21 October 1998). "Be advised: The sturgeon general is dead". Star Tribune. 
  7. ^