Lake Phalen

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Phalen Lake
Sunset over Lake Phalen.jpg
Location St. Paul / Maplewood, Minnesota, United States
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Primary outflows Phalen Creek
Basin countries United States
Surface area 198 acres (0.80 km2)[1]
Average depth 24 feet (7 m)[2]
Max. depth 91 feet (28 m)[1]
Shore length1 3 miles (5 km)[1]
Surface elevation 860 feet (262 m)[3]
References [1][2][3]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Phalen is an urban lake located in Saint Paul, Minnesota and in its suburb of Maplewood. It is one of the largest lakes in Saint Paul and is the centerpiece of the Phalen Regional Park System.[4] The lake drains into the Mississippi River after traveling through Phalen Creek. The lake and surrounding 494-acre (2.00 km2) park receive around 500,000 visitors each year.[5]


Lake Phalen is one of the Twin Cities most popular fishing lakes. The lake is stocked with walleyes every other year and tiger muskies every three years. The lake also has northern pike, largemouth bass, crappie and sunfish that are able to maintain population levels naturally.[6] The lake has a 23-square-mile (60 km2) watershed.[7] The lake is also home to an unusual fish. The rainbow darter was first found in 1996 by workers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The fish normally lives in fast moving streams. The fish is only found in six to eight other streams in Minnesota.[8] Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive species to Minnesota, was first discovered in the lake in 1997 and continues to grow in the lake.


Canoe docks on the shore of Lake Phalen

The lake has always had sailing and boating. In the 1890s sailing was very popular. In 1919, 880 canoes were stored onshore. Now the Saint Paul Sailing Club has space to moor 50 boats on the lake.[9] In addition the lake hosts College rowing competitions on a 1,940-meter course.[10][11] The University of Minnesota holds several meets a year at Lake Phalen. The first competition to be held was in the spring of 2003 after the U of M elevated rowing to a Varsity Sport in 2000.[12] In 2006, the Big Ten Championships were held at Lake Phalen.[13] Currently gas powered motors are not allowed on the lake. Electrical trolling motors however are allowed.


Lake Phalen was named after an early Irish settler of Saint Paul, Edward Phelan. Phelan built a cabin near Phalen Creek in Swede Hollow. Phalen Creek travels from Lake Phalen and drains into the Mississippi River just north of Lambert's Landing. The lake that was drained by the creek became known as Phalen's Lake despite Phelan never living near its shores.[14]:639–640 The Saint Paul Water Company set up a supply plant at Lake Phalen in 1869 and the lake was used as Saint Paul's primary source of water until 1913.[14]:155 John Fletcher Williams, a local historian, wrote in 1876 "It is a disgrace, that the name of this brutal murderer has been affixed to one of our most beautiful lakes - one that supplies our households with water."[15][16] Phalen had been accused of murdering his partner, John Hays in 1839, however another man later confessed to Hays' murder.[17]

Soon after the park was acquired, in 1899, the Saint Paul Board of Park Commissioners attempted to "tame" the lake shore. Emergent vegetation and other plants, such as bulrush, grew all around the lake shore. The lake shore became almost constantly dredged and wetland areas around the lake were filled in to create lawn space. Eventually 400,000 cubic yards (305,822 m3) of vegetation and sediment was dredged from around the lake shore. In the 1920s, 50 percent of the shoreline was lined with riprap. Beginning in 1906 with a herd of sheep, the lawn space next to the lake was cut right up to the lake shore.[18] As a result of these practices shoreline erosion became a problem. In 2001, the lake began a five-year shoreline restoration program. The program converted a majority of the riprap to natural vegetation. The percentage natural vegetation around the lake changed from 28 percent to 74 percent.[19]


The city of Saint Paul acquired the lake and surrounding area in 1899 for $22,000.[20] The area surrounding the lake has been made into a 494-acre (2.00 km2) park.[14]:214–215 The park has the only swimming lake in Saint Paul. An 18 hole golf course is also located in the park.[20]

Phalen Creek

Phalen Creek drains the lake and flows into the Mississippi River. Near the turn of the 20th century most of the creek was covered over and routed through sewers. Since then there have been several attempts to completely uncover it.[21] A portion of the lower creek is uncovered and runs along the Bruce Vento Regional Trail.[22]

PLAN Phalen Lake Association of Neighbors

PLAN was founded in 2009 with its stated mission to, "Advocate for and preserve the quality of life of neighborhoods around Phalen lake." [23] The organization consists of people living in and around the Phalen Lake area. The association has no public or private funding, and all of its administrators donate their time. PLAN also hosts an online calendar of events for activities focusing on the lake.[24]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lake information report:Phalen Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lake Phalen (62-0013) Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lake Phalen Fishing in Ramsey County, Minnesota Fishing Works
  4. Lake Phalen Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  5. Lake Phalen Shoreland Restoration Project Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District
  6. Niskanen, Chris (July 2, 1998), "Lake Phalen has it all, Except Catfish", Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  7. The search for better fishing Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  8. Debevec, Chuck (October 2001), "Little Fish Proves a Big Mystery at Phalen Lake" The Riverview Times
  9. Yuen, Laura (August 31, 2007) "Setting Sail in Saint Paul - Lake Phalen might not have the allure of Lake Calhoun But Shawn Towle Hopes Sailing Will Catch On At The East Side Spot With The Help Of His Club, Which Offers Lessons, Races And Space To Moor Boats", Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  10. Perkins, Matt (April 24, 2006), "Minnesota wins four of five contests in meet at Lake Phalen", Minnesota Daily
  11. Gerhardt, Nick (April 23, 2007), "Gophers handle Jayhawks on Lake Phalen", Minnesota Daily
  12. (April 23, 2003), "Rowers preparing for weekend home race with UCLA", Minnesota Daily
  13. Perkins, Nick, (May 1, 2006), "Minnesota is second with three Big Ten titles", Minnesota Daily
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Empson, Donald; Don Boxmeyer; Kathleen M. Vadnais (2006). The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-4729-3. 
  15. Johnston, Minnesota's Irish, 14
  16. Williams, A History of the City of Saint Paul, and of the County of Ramsey, Minnesota, 146
  17. Lareau, Paul. "Pig's Eye Notepad". Archived from the original on 2008-03-29. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  18. Background and History of Lake Phalen Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District
  19. Five-Year Shoreland Restoration Plan Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District
  20. 20.0 20.1 Phalen Park Saint Paul Parks and Recreation
  21. Kelly, Sean T. (August 14, 1991), "PHALEN CREEK 'S REBIRTH POSSIBLE THROUGH PROJECT", Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  22. * Ramsey County Parks and Recreation: Hiking and Biking Trail Information
  23. *PLAN Website.
  24. * [1]