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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

Open ½ hour before sunrise
Close ½ hour after sunset

Restroom Schedule

6500 S. Sheridan Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98408

Get Directions
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.

Wapato Park Trails
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 Park Trail Map.

Wapato Annual Garden
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.


More About Wapato Park

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)

About Wapato Lake
Wapato Lake was formed approximately 15,000 years ago during the retreat of the Fraser Ice Sheet. The lake was likely formed as a basin in glacial drift, created by a block of ice which melted after the retreat of the main ice sheet. The area was once a heavily forested rolling plain. Vashon Till underlies the area.

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.

Over the past several years, frequent blooms of blue-green algae in Wapato Lake have produced potentially harmful toxins. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, which tracks water quality, has issued intermittent health advisories to warn people and pets to avoid areas of the lake that may have algae.

In the May of 2017 Metro Parks hired a contractor to disburse alum, or aluminum sulfate, in the water. The alum binds with phosphorus in water and sediment, forming a cap of aluminum phosphate on the lakebed. One application of the treatment is expected to be effective for about five years. Read the press release.

Read the history of the park >

Events Happening Here:
  • 13 Oct
    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...
    01:00 pm

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