An in-depth look at Lakeland’s lakes

Photo by Turner Long

Table of Contents





When Abraham Munn named our fine city in 1885, I have a feeling the thought process went a little something like this: “Well it’s got a lot of lakes. And quite a bit of land. So uh, Lake-land it is.” Uncomplicated enough, right? (Fact: The three runner up names for the city were Red Bug, Munnville + Rome City.)

In all fairness, Mr. Munn chose a pretty good moniker. With a whopping 38 lakes within the city limits + numerous surrounding lakes (all ranging from 1.5 acres to 2,185 acres in size), LAL has earned its name.

But how did some of our lakes get their names? And in an attempt of not getting too existentialist on you this morning, what determines a lake is a lake? And also, why should you care?

First let’s break this down by definition + formation.

What is a lake? Simply put, lakes are bodies of water surrounded by land. Most lakes in the Northern hemisphere were formed by glaciers that covered mass land areas during the most recent ice age, about 18,000 years ago. However, because we’re Floridians we pride ourselves on individuality, and so do our bodies of water.

How are they formed? Natural lakes in the sunshine state are formed in a variety of ways through geological processes (and of course artificial lakes were formed by the forces of man.) The most common origin of a lake formation is by a process called karst erosion, which causes sinkholes.

What are they filled with? Well, it really depends on the lake and the lake type. Each lake in Florida is composed of a unique combination of organisms, the shape, size, and type of water, rock + minerals. Which means just because a lake is green doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “dirty.”

Why should you care? Every lake plays an important part of the ecosystem and effects crucial roles in irrigation, flood control, drinking water supply, recreation, navigation + as habitats for plants and wildlife. Not to mention, the pure enjoyment of fishing, kayaking, canoeing + running around them.

What’s the difference between a lake and a pond? I hate to break your heart here, but there’s no real scientific difference between the two. The only real criteria to classify them as such is that they must be standing or slow-moving bodies of water encompassed by land. Lakes are typically a little bigger than their pond counterparts. From an ecological standpoint, there is a small difference between the two. However, the difference isn’t very precise. (Meaning, Lake Hollingsworth could have been a stone skip away from being titled Pond Hollingsworth.)

Who got the LAL Lake naming rights?

Lake Beulah 📍 Right next to the RP Funding Center

Lake Beulah was named after an attractive local woman, whom young men in Lakeland became infatuated with. The moral of the story: if you’re not naming the person of your affection after a body of water, do you even like them?

Lake Morton 📍 Near Polk Museum of Art

John P. Morton, brother-in-law of Abraham Goodwin Munn (our town’s founder) bought the small lake when he visited the town.

Lake Bonny 📍Close to Philip O’Brien Elementary School

Named by a group of Englishmen who lived at a colonized area of the now defunct town of Acton. Before that, settlers called the lake, Lake Boney from how many fish bones were in the water. It’s even rumored that the lake was originally called Lake Boney after an old Indian fighter.

Lake Wire 📍 Off of Sikes Blvd.

The Western Union Telegraph Co.’s lines once traversed the “old wire” road where this lake is, that connected the town to Ocala and Punta Gorda. Poles with the wires on them even once stood in the pond.

Lake Hollingsworth 📍 Near the outskirts of Florida Southern College

Probably one of the most well known stories, Lake Hollingsworth was named after John Hollingsworth, one of the first known settlers, who moved his family near the lake.

Lake Mirror 📍 Smack in the middle of Downtown Lakeland

At first, many called the body of water Deep Lake for it’s depth or Bushy Lake from the excess of trees and undergrowth at the time. Possibly deemed as one of our town’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Mirror got a name upgrade eventually and received its name on account of the clarity of the water.

How can you protect one of our most valuable resources? Now that you’re practically a certified limnologist make sure you check out the The Polk Water Atlas, our county’s resource for ways to volunteer and protect our bodies of water, information about ecological data and up-to-date news and events.

Keep it reel LALers,