The History of Lost Lagoon


Thursday, January 28th, 2016 — 8:53am PDT
Comments 2

Lost Lagoon, on the edge of the city at the entrance to Stanley Park, is about 100 years old. This captive body of water used to be free-flowing from Coal Harbour, before it was penned in by the Stanley Park Causeway.

StanleyParkEntrance1894
1894. Entrance to Stanley Park. Boorne and May Photo. Archives# St Pk P115.

How Lost Lagoon Was Lost

It was poet E. Pauline Johnson that came up with the name Lost Lagoon. When the tide was in, water lapped the shores of the West End. When the water retreated with the tide, the lagoon disappeared entirely.

O! lure of the Lost Lagoon, –
I dream to-night that my paddle blurs
The purple shade where the seaweed stirs,
I hear the call of the singing firs
In the hush of the golden moon. » read the full poem…

The mud flats were a source for clams for the Squamish nation that lived in the area, and its name was Ch’ekxwa’7lech, meaning “gets dry at times”.

In the early days the entrance to Stanley Park was a bridge, under which the Burrard Inlet water flowed in and out of the lagoon. Between 1916 and 1926 the Stanley Park Causeway was built, land-locking the water entirely. In 1922, the Vancouver Park Board officially called it “Lost Lagoon”, based on the name put to paper by E. Pauline Johnson, who passed away in 1913.

Lost Lagoon From Above 1919


Photographer: Stuart Thomson, Item #CVA 1123-6

Lost Lagoon From Above 2011
Under Mt. Baker

Entrance to the Park 1894


Archives# CVA 677-987.

Entrance to the Park 1940


Archives# CVA 586-340

Entrance to the Park 2013
Today in Vancouver: From West Georgia to West Vancouver

City Beautiful Plan

Michael Kluckner writes in his book Vancouver Remembered that we almost lost the lagoon entirely and ended up with a sports field.

The “City Beautiful” plan would have seen the lagoon filled in to provide space for a sports field or a museum or stadium. Michael quotes a Park Board engineer of the time who said, “Fortunately, they never got beyond the plan stage. The design might have been suitable for a Peace Palace or a European Capitol, but would have resulted in substituting for the present beautiful natural lagoon a purely artificial treatment at a very high cost.” Michael comments, “Once again, lack of money saved Vancouver from the visionaries.” [Source: Vancouver History]

Freshwater and Sanctuary Development

“The next phase in the lake’s development came in 1929, when the saltwater pipes entering from Coal Harbour were shut off, turning it into a freshwater lake. The BC Fish and Game Protection Association was given permission to stock the lake with trout. The Stanley Park Flyfishing Association was formed, and charged members to fish in the lake, while the park board profited from the canoe and boat rentals. This came to an end in 1938 when the walkway around the lake was constructed and the area declared a bird sanctuary.” [Source: Mike Steele: Vancouver’s Famous Stanley Park: The Year-Round Playground]


1929. Archives# CVA 99-1957.


1975. Archives# CVA 99-1975.


1953. Archives# 2009-001.078.

The Jubilee Fountain was installed in 1936 to coincide with the city’s 100th anniversary.

Lost Lagoon Fountain

Lost Lagoon at Sunset

Today, Lost Lagoon is home to the Stanley Park Nature House, some great views of the West End, and many of the park’s creatures — from swans and geese to otters, beavers, and flying squirrels.

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2 comments

  1. Eugenie ThomasHoy says:

    I cannot see enough of the beauties of Vancouver and the West Coast. I wish I could share this and other sites with my friends in England.

  2. Sometimes not having enough money is a fabulous thing!

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