Lake Union from Gasworks Park
While Lake Washington is the de facto eastern border of Seattle, and technically outside of the city limits, Lake Union is a part of the Emerald City, as the city has developed around it.
It, like Lake Washington, was formed by the retreating Vashon Glacier, although it is certainly not as deep, and at five-hundred and thirty-eight acres, it is neither as wide nor as long as the lake to the east.
Native Americans of the Duwamish tribe lived on the shores of Lake Union for more than 5,000 years. They called it by two names that compared it with Lake Washington. In Lushootseed (the Duwamish tribe’s primary language), it was XáXucHoo or Ha-AH-Chu (“littlest lake”). In Chinook it was “Tenas Chuck” which means “small water”.
In addition to the lake’s year-round residents, there are also stories of other extended members of the Duwamish tribe coming from the local area to spend their winters in a seasonal camp at the south end of the lake. The coastline of the lake provided wild roses, red currant and squaw berry bushes for the gatherers, as well as deer, elk, bear, and cougar for the hunters.
When pioneers arrived in Seattle in the 1850s, the Duwamish camp was in the southwest corner of the lake, near where Thomas Street and 8th Avenue North meet just north of Denny Park. The native inhabitants remained there, albeit with dwindling numbers, until 1875.
Lake Union also received its present name from Thomas Mercer, who predicted that canals would join Lake Washington to Puget Sound in a "union of water", with Lake Union being the body of water that binds Lake Washington to the Sound.
If you look at Lake Union on a map, it looks sort of like a deformed head of a rabbit, with the canal to the north-west forming its left ear, and the right ear being the water way to Portage Bay. The northern shore of the lake is home to Gas Works Part, and southern end of the lake is called the South Lake Union area. Eastlake and Westlake are the neighborhoods found on each respective shore. The names surrounding the lake are far more underwhelming than the use and impact of the lake upon Seattle’s history.