Trout Lake at Dusk

Trout Lake

Calling Trout Lake an oasis in the midst of the city would be disingenuous. It’s a tattered scrap of wilderness, an off-cut of the dense forest that covered the lower mainland one hundred and fifty years ago.

No-one is left who remembers that forest and its only trace has faded into old sepia photographs; the land now redeveloped into a grid-work of streets and houses.

Haloed by the playing fields and sparse trees of John Hendry Park, Trout Lake quietly reflects the overcast sky, entirely silent about its history. Nothing betrays that the lake almost didn’t survive the 1920s — it was slated to become a municipal landfill.

With seemingly contemporary foresight, Mrs. Aldyen Hamber purchased the land and donated it to the city as parkland — with the condition it be named after her father John Hendry. The naming was not arbitrary; John Hendry owned the first sawmill in Vancouver, which drew its water from Trout Lake.

With astonishing speed, Vancouver has assembled itself around the lake, and the silence that once rested between the forests’ leaves has been shaken out by droning traffic noise and the screeching wheels of the Skytrain, arcing past the southwestern edge of the park.

Once fed by numerous streams long since filled in, the lake is now replenished only by rainfall and the city water supply. The trout that bestowed their name to the lake are absent, but on the east and west shores some wildness remains.

These overgrown edge-lands, swampy and inaccessible, serve as a respite from the surrounding city: birds, raccoons, squirrels, otters, and numerous other small animals go about their lives in these marshy shoreline crescents.

Despite innumerable changes, Trout Lake and John Hendry Park are still replete with visible and invisible connections. I return time and time again to Trout Lake to learn what it still has to teach. It’s these connections, ideas, and questions that I’ll be exploring in this blog.

You can read a little more about John Hendry Park & Trout Lake at the Vancouver Heritage Foundation or Wikipedia.

Copyright City of Vancouver Archives

There are also a handful of archival photographs online at the Vancouver Archives. One of my favourites dates from 1908.