History of Spanish Lake Park

By the exploration of Marquette and Joliet (1673) and LaSalle and DeTonty (1682), France claimed all lands west of the Mississippi River. In 1764 France lost the Seven Years War in Europe and the French and Indian War in America. The French ceded Canada to England, but in the Treaty of Fontainebleau ceded lands west of the Mississippi to Spain.

In 1767 Spanish troops and workmen under Captain Francisco Rui entered Louisiana with orders from the King to build two forts at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The sites proposed were unsuitable because of swamps and flooding, so one temporary fort was built called “Don Carlos el Senor Principe de Asturias,” after the King’s eldest son. Troops from the fort fished at Spanish Lake and Spanish Governor Zenon Trudeau is said to have had a home at the lake. Hazekiah Lard was a large landowner around the fort and lake area.

In 1780, Indians attacked the City of St. Louis, so the fort was moved to the City, and Fort San Carlos was abandoned. In 1803, the United States bought the Louisiana Territory for $15 million from France. William Henry Harrison took official control. ort Belle Fontaine was built in the area as a trading post for the Indians. Bellefontaine Road was a road from the City to the fort and farming area. Jacques St. Vrain, brother of Charles DeLassus, the last French commandant of St. Louis, was given a grant for the land to the east of the lake, where he kept cattle.

In the late 19th Century, a private clubhouse was built for fishermen from the City. In 1911 it was estimated that 8,000 to 11,000 fishermen came to Spanish Lake.

In 1928 William Heckman bought Spanish Pond for Eldorado subdivision.
At that time the roads were still stone. The name was changed from Spanish Pond to Spanish Lake at that time for promotional purposes.

The lake remained under private ownership until it was purchased with 1969 Bond Issue funds for $1.2 million, $600,000 federal L&WCF and $600,000 County funds. The park thus became a Land & Water Park and is subject to all Section 6(f) restrictions. The park opened in April of 1971 and was officially dedicated in October of 1971. The Department finished a dredging project in 1982 that removed 200,000 cubic yards of sediment from the lake.

Fourteen acres of land were added to the park in 1986. 1986 Bond Issue funds were used to construct the Manny Broadway Shelter and a new maintenance building. In the early 1990s the lake was dredged again, and it is now managed, along with the accessible dock, by the Missouri Department of Conservation under the Community Assistance Program. In 2001 the Cardinal Care program constructed “Spirit Field,” an accessible baseball field, in the upper part of the park.

The Sign near the Playground in Spanish Lake Park

The Spanish Lake area is rich in American history. In the 18th century this strategic location, near the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, was important to many European nations. France ceded this territory known as Louisiana to Spain in 1762 and in 1767 Fort Don Carlos was built on the south bank near the mouth of the Missouri River. In 1778 the fort was rebuilt on a site where Coldwater Creek enters the Missouri.

On October 1, 1800, Spain ceded Louisiana back to France and on April 30, 1803 the new nation of the United States purchased Louisiana from the French for $15,000,000. The old fort became Fort Belle Fontaine, the first American military post west of the Mississippi River. In 1810 a new Fort Belle Fontaine was built on a commanding site at the top of the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. This fort remained in active use until 1826.

Zebulon Pike began his westward explorations from Fort Belle Fontaine and the “Corps of Discovery,” led by Lewis and Clark, spent the last night of their journey at Fort Belle Fontaine in 1806.

Tradition holds that Spanish Pond was named for the Spanish soldiers who encamped at this location. The name was changed to Spanish Lake in the late 19th century as the area prospered as a farming village. Spanish Lake was a popular recreational attraction for many years; it became a County Park in 1971. The site of Fort Belle Fontaine is also a County Park.