Lake Union background

“The lake is a treasure.” — the late Richard Haag, designer of Gas Works Park

Lake Union was gouged out by a glacier more than 12,000 years ago, and parts of it are 50 feet deep. Native Americans referred to it as Tenas Chuck (”little water”); one of their camps existed at the south end of Lake Union until at least 1875. Unfortunately, the early white settlers eventually prohibited Native Americans from living within the Seattle city limits, although a few remained, including Cheshiahud, for whom the walking and bicycling route around the lake is now named.

In the early 1900s, many acres of Lake Union have were filled in. Some of the fill was from the city’s various regrades, and some was from the I-5 construction. The 1918 construction of the ship canal that connected Lake Washington to Puget Sound raised Lake Union somewhat, and brought shipyards and other industry. It also made Lake Union also a river, part of the Green River system draining from Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington into Salmon Bay and Puget Sound.

Few cities feature a lake at their geographic and population center as is Lake Union, now among the world’s most urban lakes. It supports a myriad of uses — shipyards, yacht moorages, residences near and on the water, a major fish run, shore birds, beavers, and other animals, motor boating, barge traffic, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, international seaplane traffic, many forms of recreation and tourism, and historic landmarks like Gas Works Park and the Lake Union Steam Plan (ZymoGenetics).

Dating back to the Eastlake Community Council’s founding in 1971, one of its six official purposes is “To maximize public use and enjoyment of the inland waters and shorelines adjoining the Eastlake community.” ECC efforts toward that end include the Fairview Green Street, the Edgar-Hamlin shoreline walkway gap, and seaplane issues.