Lake Harriet (Minnesota)

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Lake Harriet
Hennepin county MN Lake Harriet IMG 1768 from east.JPG
Aerial view of Lake Harriet, 2012
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 popular for recreation. It offers sailing, two beaches, and a system of bike and pedestrian trails (about 2.99 miles (4.81 km) for the bike trail and 2.75 miles (4.43 km) for the pedestrian trail). The trail and parkway system, part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, connects with Lake Calhoun on the north end of Lake Harriet, via William Berry Parkway, and with the Minnehaha Creek trail system at the southeast side of the lake. At the north end of the lake is a bandshell, used in the summer 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.[citation needed]


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 Bde Unma ("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. It 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 pavilion, in the classical revival style, again designed by Jones, was built in 1904. It was destroyed on July 8, 1925, in a windstorm; two people were killed, 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, built in 1986.[3][4]

The current bandshell was originally painted blue, but in 2004 developer Mark McGowan organized an all-volunteer free restoration of the buildings. To complete the 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 light brown. To celebrate the restoration, an all-day music festival, called "Lake Harriet Live!", was held on 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]

Plane over Lake Harriet, headed for Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport
Lake Harriet's "elf house"
Sailboats on Lake Harriet

The lake is in a direct line with two of the main runways at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport, and airplanes frequently fly over the area.

On the walking path near where Queen Avenue meets 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, the elf door is shut, and a plank appears stating he has "moved to his castle in the east." It reopens in the spring.

Other parkland near the lake includes a picnic ground just north of the bandshell, Lyndale Park, and a Thomas Sadler Roberts bird sanctuary on the northeast side 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 side of Lake Calhoun and the north shoreline of Lake Harriet.

Two blocks west of the lake is the shopping district of Linden Hills, often referred to as "a small town in the city".[citation needed]

It was discovered on Google Earth that the silhouette of a twin-engine aircraft can be seen in the water. Most have dismissed this as the shadow of a plane flying over, but an investigation was opened into the matter.[5] Further information has determined that there is no sunken plane but rather it is a photographic anomaly of a plane passing over that, due to the exposure, makes it appear to be under the water.

During the mid-1970's, the late rock, pop & R&B star Prince (then known as Roger Nelson) would dribble a basketball between his legs & practice his locally legendary cross-over basketball dribble, while walking with his friends around Lake Harriet. Prince grew up less than one mile from Lake Harriet and, contrary to pop-culture belief, actually purified himself in the waters of Lake Harriet, and not Lake Minnetonka.[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 guideline restrictions have been placed on the consumption of bluegill, carp, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, white sucker, and yellow perch from the lake, because of contamination with mercury and PFOS.[6]

In 1998, a dead female lake sturgeon weighing 105 pounds (48 kg) and 6.3 feet (1.9 m) long 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.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Government Printing Office. p. 150. 
  2. ^ Cairn, Rich and Susan (2003). "History of Minnehaha Creek Watershed" (PDF). p. 19. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-07-30. 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 Society. pp. 219–224. ISBN 9780873515405. 
  4. ^ Millett, Larry (2009). AIA Guide to the Minneapolis Lake District. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 72. ISBN 9780873516457. 
  5. ^ "Why does Google Earth show a plane at the bottom of Lake Harriet?". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  6. ^ "Lake information report: Minnesota DNR". MN DNR. MN DNR. 2005-07-11. 
  7. ^ Anderson, Dennis (21 October 1998). "Be advised: The sturgeon general is dead". Star Tribune. 
  8. ^