The history of Lake Merced in San Francisco is a storied one. It has been used as a drinking water source for the city, as well as a site for numerous high-stakes duels. However, the lake’s real story is in the water, where CalTrout has installed a new fishing pier and the Department of Fish and Game plans to plant 50,000 fish in the next year. In other news, the lake is still a good place to play golf.
One of the most interesting parts of the lake’s history is its connection to the Golden Gate fault. At one time, the lake and the surrounding area were under Mexican rule. Jose Galindo, the Mexican government grantee, sold land to Francisco de Haro. The former would later be elected the first mayor of San Francisco. As part of his role, de Haro constructed a hacienda at the southern end of the lake. His twin sons died during the Mexican-American War.
A large part of the lake’s story is attributed to the Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC), formed by the big plutocrats of the West. The company purchased the water rights for $150,000 in 1868 and has enjoyed a near monopoly on the market ever since. SVWC was a swashbuckling outfit, but its history is littered with lawsuits over rates, and the company has been the subject of many controversies.
Although it is hard to argue with the water company’s claim to fame, the history of Lake Merced is certainly not without its fair share of controversy. In the early 1900s, the property sat vacant and the SVWC began to sell off pieces of the lake. Many were converted into housing tracts, a zoo, and a state university. Some of the property was also used to construct a casino, which operated for four months before closing its doors. Fortunately, Lake Merced has recovered and is now a well-loved and well-maintained water source for the Bay Area. This summer, CalTrout has installed a new pier and the Department of Fish and Game will be planting 50,000 fish in the lake.
Another great feature of the lake is its geology. Sediments in the lake have been studied at length. There are several event beds and their corresponding ages have been calculated. The uppermost of these has a very thick sandy bed, which is probably the best indicator of the magnitude of the earthquake that caused it.