7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Lost Lagoon

Posted on January 25, 2017
Lost Lagoon - Lost Lagoon is one of Vancouver’s most famous landmarks, connecting downtown Vancouver with Stanley Park. It is known by locals as a great place to meet up with friends or go for a stroll, and by tourists as the site of the Jubilee fountain and perfect place to view wildlife.

Here are seven things you probably didn’t know about this iconic body of water.

It wasn’t always a freshwater lake

The lagoon was once part of a tidal marsh connected to Burrard Inlet and was known to the Squamish Nation as Ch’ekxwa’7lech, meaning “gets dry at times.” The waters were so shallow that when the tide would go out, the lagoon would disappear completely. Long before Europeans settled in Vancouver, the Squamish First Nations stewarded a very productive clam bed on the mud flats.  A midden on the north side of the lagoon suggests that a large dwelling stood there at one time.

It almost became a sports field

Back in the early 1900’s there was much debate over what would happen to the area we now call Lost Lagoon. The debaters were largely separated by class; the middle and upper class wanted the area to be used as a way to beautify the city, while the working class pushed for it to be used for recreation. The Parks Board originally settled on a design that would have the area turned into an artificial lake, with a museum at one end and a sports field at the other. In the end, the cost of constructing the museum and sports field were too high so only the lake portion of the proposal was approved.

Its name has poetic roots

Lost Lagoon officially received its name in 1922 during construction of the causeway, which cut it off from Burrard inlet and turned it into an artificial lake. The name was based on a poem by Canadian artist Pauline Johnson, who often celebrated her Aboriginal heritage through her work. Ironically, the poem describes the lagoon before the construction of the causeway and references Johnson’s dismay at being unable to paddle her canoe across it when it would disappear with the tide.

It was once stocked with trout

When the pipes connecting Lost Lagoon to Burrard Inlet were shut off in 1929, the lake became freshwater. It was quickly stocked with trout by the BC Fish and Game Protection Association. Members of the newly formed Stanley Park Fly Fishing Association would pay to fish there. The Parks Board also benefited by charging fees for canoe and boat rentals on the lake.

The fountain sparked controversy

One of the main attractions at Lost Lagoon is the Jubilee Fountain, which was constructed in 1936 to commemorate Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations on its 50th birthday. It was an expensive endeavor that received much public outcry for its lavish $33,000 price tag during a time of economic crisis. Nonetheless, the proposal went through and the lagoon was drained so that piles of concrete could be set in time for the celebrations. Harold Williams, one of the engineers working on the Jubilee Fountain, described it as a, “symphony concert in motion and colour instead of music.” The fountain has been restored twice since then, once for the Expo in 1986 and again in 2010 for the Olympics.

It is a bird sanctuary

In 1938 a 1.75km walkway was constructed that encircled the lake. It was at this time that the area was declared a bird sanctuary and the fishing and canoe rentals came to an end. This was a turning point in the history of the lagoon.  The walkway is still used by visitors to explore Lost Lagoon, which remains a recognized bird sanctuary. Today, the area is managed in part by the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

The rise and fall of the Mute Swans

Mute Swans were the main attraction of the lagoon in the 1960’s when an estimated 70 swans resided there. The birds were brought over from England by one of Stanley Park’s curators, who would clip thier wing tendons to stop them from spreading to other parts of the province. Mute Swans are highly territorial and it is not uncommon for them to battle for territory.  Under normal circumstances, a lake the size of Lost Lagoon would only have one resident pair of Mute Swans living in it.

In recent years, management of the lagoon and surrounding area has focused on encouraging native species of flora and fauna. The Mute Swans were prevented from producing offspring and eventually the population began to decline. Finally in August of 2016, when the safety of the last three swans was threatened by predators, they were permanently moved to a sanctuary. Today the lagoon is still a birding hot spot where migrating waterfowl, raptors, herons and songbirds can be found.

Visiting Lost Lagoon:

The easiest way to get to Stanley Park, the home of Lost Lagoon, is by transit. Take the #19 bus from downtown and get off at Pipeline Road and Stanley Park Drive. Then it’s just a one minute walk under the highway before you will find yourself standing in front of the lagoon. You can also bike or walk from downtown. Head towards the Lions Gate Bridge and the lagoon will be just before the causeway on your right.

For more detailed information on how to get there, or if you are driving, have a look at this page from the City of Vancouver.

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