Resource: Greenlake

Green Lake is a freshwater lake in north central Seattle, Washington, USA, within Green Lake Park. The park is surrounded by the Green Lake neighborhood to the north and east, the Wallingford neighborhood to the south, the Phinney Ridge neighborhood to the west, and Woodland Park to the southwest. A glacial lake, its basin was dug 50,000 years ago by the Vashon glacier, which also created Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Bitterand Haller Lakes.


Green Lake was named by David Phillips who surveyed the area in September 1855 for the United States Surveyor General. His first notes referred to is as "Lake Green" because even in its natural state the lake is prone to algae blooms.

The lake has a surface area of 1 km? its mean depth is 3.8 meters, and its maximum depth 9.1 meters. The lake has been dredged in order to maintain its depth. Green Lake lacks both surface water inflows and outflows--it once drained into Lake Washington via Ravenna Creek, but in 1911 it was lowered by 2.1 meters (7 feet) to create parkland, causing the creek to dry up between Green Lake and Cowen Park. It is fed by rainfall, storm runoff, and Seattle's municipal water supply.

The area was originally homesteaded by various pioneering people, the first of which was Erhart Sarfried, "Green Lake John". Sarfried subdivided his homestead in 1888 to various entrepreneurs. W. D. Wood built an "amusement park" on the west side of the lake (which never amounted to more than a glorified lawn for picnics). On the east side of the lake, A. L. Parker logged the woods and built a sawmill. Edward C Kilbourne built the first trolley line connecting the area to the city, the route of which is now Greenlake Way North. The trolley lines kept growing, until by 1910 they extended completely around the lake and a round trip could be made on a separate line going back to the city.

Green Lake Park

After 1903, the area became part of Seattle's grand Olmsted Plan to create a series of interconnected greenspace around the entire city. The park design still reflects the Olmsted vision.

Green Lake is surrounded entirely by a very popular paved path. The 4.5 kilometer path is divided into two lanes--one for pedestrians and one for bicycles, roller skates, and other wheeled unmotorized vehicles. The inner pedestrian lane is bidirectional, while the outer wheeled path is unidirectional (counterclockwise). The path is a major destination for people seeking exercise and can become quite crowded on days of fair weather. There is also an outer path along the edge of the park. The park is a popular spot for qigong classes, roller hockey, soccer, baseball, golf, and lawn bowls.

The bathhouse was built in 1927 next to an outdoor swimming area with concrete steps leading into the water. A lifeguard station and boat were built next to this area in 1930 after several drownings in 1929. The bathhouse is now the Bathhouse Theatre, a small but popular venue for plays.

Across the lake from the Bathhouse in the northeast part of the park, the first community center in the park was built in 1929 at a cost of $95,598 (1929 dollars). As it was built on the fill land from the 1911 lake draining, the community center was built on pilings. It contains two conference rooms, a gym with showers and bathrooms, and a stage. Towards the lake, another stepped swimming area was built. In 1955 a 150,000 gallon swimming pool was added. The pool was named Evans pools, to honor two brothers, Ben and Lou Evans, for their long service to athletics at Seattle parks. The tennis courts were added in 1945.

The childrens wading pool was a Works Progress Administration project, as was the drainage ditch and arched stone bridge over it for the path.

South of the bathhouse is a lawn and fishing pier. Since 1984, this part of the lake has hosted a floating lantern memorial to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Prospect Point (a spit of land that points at Duck Island) protects a small area of water from high winds that used to be (since before 1940) a popular spot for model boats; though model boating is no longer allowed on the lake.

The Aqua Theater was built in 1950 for the first Seafair in order to house an attraction called the Aqua Follies and their "swimusicals" - a combination of aqua ballet, stage dancing, and comedy. The theater included a round stage and floating (though still recessed below the stage) orchestra pit, encircling a section of the lake with high diving platforms to each side. The grandstand was built to a capacity of more than 5,000 seats. The Aqua Follies continued to run during Seafair until 1965. Outside of the Seafair schedule the theater was the stage for plays and musicals whose directors always took advantage of the unique setting. In the summer of 1962, coinciding with the Century 21 Exposition the Aqua Theater stage was host to a jazz festival. Popular performers such as Bob Hope, two plays, and a special presentation of the Aqua Follies with 100 performers. After the World's Fair, each summers productions languished (usually blamed on Seattle's unpredictable weather) until the Aqua Theater was mostly abandoned - a 1969 concert by the Grateful Dead revealed that the grandstand was crumbling and dangerous. Beginning in 1970, the theater was dismantled, stage right is now a pedestrian pier, stage left is now a dock and storage for crewboats. Some sections of the grandstand were left in place.

The southwest portion of the park connects with adjoining Woodland Park, on land that is also mostly fill, much of which came from the excavation of a route for Aurora Avenue. The southwest portion of the lake once extended to what is now 54th Street.

In the summer, Green Lake is also popular for swimming and boating. Although public use of motorized boats has been banned since at least 1968, the lake was the site of hydroplaneraces from 1929 to 1984. Today, many forms of motor-less boats, including sailboarding, pedal boats, rowboats, skiffs, and canoes, are commonly seen on the lake. While remnants exist, all boat launches have been removed from the lake; all boats must be hand carried to the water.

Animal and plant life

Green Lake is a beacon for wildlife. Many types of waterfowl, ducks, cormorants, herons, geese, turtles, raccoons, squirrels, bats, hawks, eagles, and ospreyare among the wildlife commonly viewed there. There is an artificial islandin the lake built by the Works Progress Administrationin 1936. The island was built (with dumped gravel) as a wildlife sanctuaryand later housed some swangifted to the city by Vancouver, British Columbia. The state game commission officially made the island a reserve, off limits to people, in 1956. The park board originally named the island Waldo's Wildlife Sanctuary, after Waldo J Dahl, who took care of the swan. It is now only known as Duck Island.

Green Lake is a popular dumping ground for unwanted house pets which has created a large population of feral rabbits. The rabbit population has created problems burrowing under streets and retaining walls and into the Woodland Park Zoo. Over the years volunteers have been adopting or removing the rabbits but not enough to control the population. In 2005, the city and zoo combined with the Rabbit Sanctuary to remove all of the rabbits and embark on an educational outreach campaign to teach people not to abandon rabbits. The practice of abandoning pets into or around Green Lake has seen several other non-native species that needed to be removed, mostly ordinary goldfish, but exotic species such as sturgeon and caiman have both been removed at various times.

Recently, a program has been implemented to substancially reduce the number of ducks and geese. Their droppings raise the level of phosphorus in the lake, leading to excessive growths of algae and milfoil. In 2003, the lake was treated with alum to encapsulate the phosphorus. A paddle boat, moored in the lake, is used to cut the milfoil. The fowl also leave pathogens in the lake which can cause Swimmer's itch. This shows the difficulity of maintaining water quality in a stagnant lake.

Fish, mostly trout which are occasionally restocked, also live in the lake. A large amount of sucker fish(often confused with carp) are also present, along with largemouth bass, yellow perch, and small populations of many different unexpected species.

During the spring, Green Lake Park is in bloom with pink and white cherry trees. Originally only planted along the west side of the lake in 1931 and 1932, they were a gift from the Japanese Association of North America.

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