One of the first two recreational parks developed in St. Paul (along with Como Park), this 750-acre park encompasses four lakes and has two distinct areas, Phalen Park in St. Paul and Keller Park in the city of Maplewood. Biking and walking paths encircle Lake Phalen, which was incorporated into the northern loop of the Grand Round park and parkway system, linked by Wheelock Parkway to Como Park to the west and by Johnson Parkway to Indian Mounds Park to the south.
Lake Phalen and Keller Lake were part of a waterway system the Dakota used to travel from White Bear Lake to the Mississippi River. In his visits in the 1870s and 1880s, H. W. S. Cleveland urged St. Paul to acquire and improve natural features and lakes near the city’s northern boundary as soon as possible, and the city began securing land by Lake Phalen in 1894. Lake Phalen was surrounded by a native forest when the park was established, and some native oak stands remain. In recent decades, St. Paul Parks and Recreation has worked to remove invasive plants and replace them with native species. A beach house is on the lake’s west shore. A golf course occupies much of the park’s west side. An artificial stone waterfall at the lake’s northwest corner, originally constructed in the 1950s to maintain lake levels, has been restored. Two historic bridges survive, one now only serving pedestrians.
On the west side of the lake is the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden (2018). Changsha, a sister city of St. Paul, is the ancestral homeland of the Hmong, thousands of whom have immigrated to the city. The garden, with a pagoda-style pavilion, was designed by city landscape architect Alice Messer in collaboration with the Hmong community, Chinese architects Jennifer Junfang Fan and Jon Youhua Wen, and the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society.