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Wapato Park

Features You'll Find:
Hover over an icon for more details
    • Bike Trail / Biking / Bicycling
    • Historic
    • Parking Stalls
    • Parking Stalls / ADA
    • Restrooms / Seasonal
    • Trail / Hard
    • Trail / Soft
    • Boat Launch / Walk Up
    • Fishing Pier
    • Horseshoes
    • Lake / Pond
    • Natural Areas
    • Meeting Space
    • Picnic / Drop in
    • Picnic / Reservable
    • Weddings / Rentals
  • DOGS
    • Off Leash Dog Park
    • Playground (5-12 yrs)

Open ½ hour before sunrise
Close ½ hour after sunset

Restroom Schedule

6500 S. Sheridan Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98408

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Wapato Park lies in a beautiful setting of lake and forest. Features include a walking trail around the lake (.9 miles), a playground, a dog park, picnic shelters, and an impressive, historic pergola.

Keeping Wapato Lake's water clean has been a challenge throughout the park's history. Early efforts included adding chlorine to cut down on algae growth. Then in 1936, as part of a Works Progress Administration project to improve the park, 180,000 cubic yards of mud was dredged from the lake hoping to clean it. By 1942, the lake was closed to swimmers due to unhealthful water conditions. Since that time a variety of other methods have been tried to keep the lake water clean such as harvesting aquatic plants, adding millions of gallons of fresh water, and even draining the lake in 1981 and removing tons of polluted sediment.
Regularly draining or flushing the lake with fresh drinking water, however, is neither financially nor environmentally sustainable. In 2012, Metro Parks and the City of Tacoma agreed on a scientifically based approach to improve the quality of the water in Wapato Lake.  Wapato Lake is actually a giant catch basin, filled by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watershed. The water contains high concentrations of phosphorus and other nutrients which promote the growth of toxic algae, harmful to people and pets.
Scientists and engineers agree that the only way to consistently reduce the concentration of phosphorus is to effectively clean the stormwater coming into the lake and move the water through the lake at a faster rate. The most efficient way to channel more stormwater through the lake is to dismantle a bypass system set up at Wapato Lake in the 1970s (based on the mistaken idea that it would help). However, this is only part of the solution. It is important to remove phosphorus and other nutrients, which feed the algae, to improve the quality of water introduced to the lake. Part of the strategy is the cautious use of alum to bind the phosphorus into the sediment, thus making it unavailable for algae growth, without harming the lake's wildlife. Ultimately a dredging project would be needed to prevent the lake from evolving into a marsh.
Metro Parks and the city also are working together to test a promising new way to filter more pollutants out of the water. In 2013, together with the city and the University of Washington-Tacoma, we embarked on a series of studies testing an innovative and potentially sustainable filtering process. It uses chemical byproducts of municipal drinking-water treatment systems to trap phosphorus and other nutrients that foster unwanted algae growth. Now, Metro Parks, the city and the Washington State Department of Ecology are preparing to launch a pilot project to evaluate the long-term effects of this filter technology on the waters of Wapato Lake. The project will begin this fall an Wapato Park Trail Map.d is expected to conclude in the summer of 2018. The results will help Metro Parks and the city plan for the lake’s future.

Wapato has a number of trails that you can walk to explore the park, including one circling the lake that is approx .9 miles in length.

Wapato features three fully fenced areas for pets to romp leash free with their owners - including one reserved just for small dogs. Benches and shelters are provided on-site. Water will be provided beginning 3/1/17. Read more about Tacoma's dog parks

The historic pergola, a crescent-shaped arbor with an open roof and tall columns, has lent a hint of Italian garden to this South End park's main entryway since 1938. The structure was restored in 2001 and serves as the backdrop for year-round seasonal color. Flower baskets hang from beams encircled by rows of blooms.


The two wooden dock structures are being replaced for improved access and paddleboat/ kayak launching.
 Read more about Wapato Park improvements

Wapato Don't Feed Wildlife Sign Graphic
  • Wildlife can experience malnutrition, disease, and overpopulation due to human feeding.
  • Wildlife often exhibit aggressive behaviors when they become conditioned to expect food from people.
  • Overpopulation is a significant contributor to poor water quality and toxic algae growth, endangering public health and safety.
  • Feeding is illegal and to help curb overpopulation issues, citations will be issued for violations. Feeding carries a $532 penalty. (TMC 8.27.130)


Bikes at the edge of Wapato Lake in 1928

Wapato Lake Park opened to the public in 1889 and was described as "rapidly becoming the most beautiful vista of landscape in this section of the northwest." Following financial difficulties in the 1890s, Radebaugh lost most of his Wapato Lake property, but the lake continued to serve as a popular recreation area for residents of South Tacoma.


Events Happening Here:
  • 08 Apr
    Family Nature Walk-Wapato Park
    Explore Tacoma's Parks during this free naturalist-led walk. Discover amazing plants and animals and how they adapt to the seasons...
    10:00 am

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