Sloan’s Leaky Lake Creates a Neighborhood
To the west of downtown Denver, you’ll find one of Denver’s wettest outposts, Sloan’s Lake. Is it a neighborhood or a water body? It’s both, but there’s lots of story to be told about its name and how the lake came about.
Let’s first start with what the official name of this neighborhood is. Well, actually, we have to go back to before that…it was 1860 and Thomas M Sloan decided he needed some water for his farm. So he drilled a well, and “supposedly” punched a whole into the unknown aquifer below. It sprang a leak, and 24 hours later, the lake was born.
What’s It Really Called?
The sprung lake had names. Sloan’s Leak, Sloan Lake, and Sloan’s Lake. For decades, the names interchanged. When Mr Sloan died, marketing folks called the area Sloan Lake Neighborhood, but locals continued to call it Sloan’s Lake. The city, though, called the neighborhood Sloan Lake, as it doesn’t use possessives in any neighborhood names. For example, we have Washington Park, not Washington’s Park.
In the early 1990s, the local residents gathered together a petition for the name of the neighborhood to officially be called Sloan’s Lake. The City of Denver then changed all the names designating the neighborhood to be Sloan’s Lake Park. But someone forgot to tell the copy writer in the City, and thus, the City officially calls the neighborhood, “Sloan Lake.”
As for the lake’s nme, although Sloan’s Leak and Sloan’s Leaky Lake stayed around for a short time, the lake has always been known as Sloan’s Lake. Google shows the lake name as “Sloan’s Lake Park” and the neighborhood as “Sloan’s Lake”, whereas the City of Denver maps show both as “Sloan Lake.” Thus, since this blog is about Denver’s neighborhoods and it follows the official neighborhood boundaries set out by the city, I’ll go with Sloan Lake even though I’m sure that grates on everyone’s ears! Read more about the name conundrum here.
Thus, Sloan Lake neighborhood’s boundaries are 29th Avenue to the North, 17th Avenue to the South, Federal Boulevard to East, and Sheridan Boulevard to the West. The lake is the largest in the City, encompassing two lakes; Compass Lake and Sloan Lake for a total of 177 acres. The surrounding park around the lake makes the entire area be Denver’s second largest park. But, now that the Northfield Parks are open in north Stapleton, I wonder if its second in size position will change.
Ostrich-drawn Cinderella Carriages?
Lots of fun has been had on the lake. From the historic Manhattan Beach, which housed circles acts, ostrich-drawn Cinderella sleds, elephants, and even flying human cannons, to pleasure boats that cruised the lake and yet ultimately sank, Sloan Lake has invited Denverites to its shores for over a century. Now its banks have sail boats, paddle boats, dragon boat races, and if it ever gets cold enough again for the lake to freeze for consecutive days, ice skating. You’ll even find a great rookery in the middle of the lake that you can kayak around on summer evenings.
A Square, a Victorian and a WWII…
Surrounding the lake is a neighborhood that has waxed and waned with the times. Surprisingly, the homes on each block can vary from recent moderns to Denver Squares with WWII housing sprinkled in between. One block had a modern on the corner, two WWII houses in the middle, a Denver Square, a brick Victorian, and a Santa Fe adobe style home.
And a Centrally Located School
The original high school turned junior high (Lake Junior) is actually outside of the official Denver boundaries of Sloan Lake, sitting technically in the West Colfax neighborhood (read about West Colfax here.) Its castle-like structure, designed by Highlands natives Merrill and Burnham Hoyt, is now a middle school. The only Denver Public School in the Sloan Lake Neighborhood is an elementary school, Brown Elementary, with vibrant playground walls. It anchors the neighborhood northeast of the lake. Named after Edward L. Brown, who served the Denver Public Schools from 1898 to 1931 as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, he was instrumental in creating the Denver Teachers’ Club, an advocacy group for Denver Teachers.
Despite its un-agreed-upon name, this 3.3 mile walk takes you through this fun and architecturally intriguing neighborhood, Sloan Lake.
Start at 3798 W 29th Ave. Be sure to pay attention to the parking signs. Walk west to Osceola St and turn left. Continue to W 26th Ave, take a right.
At Perry St, take a left, then a right on W 25th Ave. Cross the grassy park to the lake, and walk along the lake to the southeast. You’ll pass the marina, the area where Manhattan Beach was, and a white stone statue of a pelican.
Enjoy the lake to W 20th Ave. Go west to Newton St. Take a left on Newton and then a right on W 21st Ave.
At Irving St go left (north) to W 24th Ave and then take a right on Julian St. Take a left on W 25th Ave.
You’ll come to the neighborhood school. Take a right on King St, enjoying the artwork along the playground’s wall. Cross 26th, continuing north on King.
At W 29th Ave, take a left, returning back to your start. You may want to add three more miles to your walk by completing the loop around the lake.
A Lake or a Leak, Sloan’s Urban Hike in Denver and Supporting Denver By Foot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family.
Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!
Wasn’t this a fun walk?
See you on the trail, Chris