A Hennepin County plat book from 1898 shows six families made homesteads on Mooney Lake. One family’s last name was Mooney, and the lake was commonly referred to as “Mooney’s Lake”.
The “Big Woods”, composed of maple, oak and basswood trees, once surrounded the lake. However, much of it was cleared by early settlers for farming and income from lumber. Once used for maple syrup production by the Mooney and Striebel families, the original “Big Woods” still stands on the southwest corner of Mooney Lake.
Letters from 1915 describe excellent walleye fishing in the clear waters of Mooney Lake.
Each lake has its own unique characteristics, like its size and depth, the size and nature of its watershed, the type of soil and rocks that make up its bed and shoreline, and the presence of native and invasive species. Understanding these characteristics helps us understand a lake’s ideal natural state, and guides lake management decisions and activities.
Mooney Lake is a landlocked, 117-acre lake. Like one-third of the 11,000+ lakes found in Minnesota, it’s classified as a “shallow lake”, with an average maximum depth of 11 feet.
While they don’t get the same attention or respect as deep lakes up north, shallow lakes are a rich resource, providing wildlife habitat, water quality benefits and recreation opportunities. A healthy shallow lake is characterized by water clear enough to see to the bottom, and fairly thick weed beds with fish and other aquatic organisms using the plants for both food and protection. Due to their shallow nature, these lakes tend to have winterkill of fish on a fairly regular basis, and are usually dominated by fish species tolerant to low dissolved oxygen levels, like northern pike and bullheads.
Unfortunately, shallow lakes are also more susceptible to environmental changes. Things like the introduction of invasive species or increased run-off from surrounding watersheds can contribute to dramatic changes in a shallow lake’s ecology. This degradation causes them to switch from a clear-water state to a turbid state – and if left unchecked, a lake in this state offers very little, if any, fish and wildlife value.
With increased development surrounding Mooney Lake, today over 50 percent of its drainage area is composed of impervious surfaces. This leads to unfiltered run-off from residential properties, bringing with it de-icing salt, phosphates used for green lawns, oils from cars, and other household chemicals. The once clear waters of Mooney Lake have been compromised to the point that it is now listed by the Minnesota DNR as in a turbid water state.