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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Willow Lake Trail

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

While both Willow and Meadow Lakes were created with water flow from the Flushing River for the 1939-40 World’s Fair, their intended purposes were vastly different. The latter was created for recreational use; during its opening for the Fair it featured water show spectaculars with movie stars like Johnnie Weismuller, of Tarzan fame and a gold medal Olympic swimmer. Willow Lake, on the other hand, was designed as a natural refuge and stayed one throughout the 1939-40 and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fairs. After the second fair, the Willow Lake area was enhanced with diverse plant and wildlife habitats and is now one of the last freshwater wetlands in New York City.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation designated the 47.6-acre Willow Lake a protected freshwater wetland on November 10, 1976. In 1996 members of Boy Scout Troop 530 and students from John Bowne High School reconstructed the nature trail around Willow Lake. The half-mile wood chip trail is an enjoyable ramble through 55 acres of plantlife, migratory bird habitats, and wildlife native to New York State.

True to its namesake, the Willow Lake area is home to a wide variety of willows, plants belonging to the Salix genus, including the tall White willow (Salix alba), the Weeping willow (Salix babylonica), the shorter Goat willow (Salix caprea), and the Pussy willow (Salix discolor). Other plants, trees, and flowers one might encounter while on a stroll are the Blue Flag iris (Iris versicolor), Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), Staghorn suman (Rhus typhina), Phragmites (Phragmites australis), Black cherry (Prunus serotina), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), White waterlilies (Nymphaea odorata), and Yellow waterlilies (Nymphaea mexicana).

As part of the lake area’s renovation, berry-bearing shrubs and trees were planted to attract local and migratory birds. The results were successful, and now Willow Lake is a bird watcher’s paradise revealing a wide variety of avians, including Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata), Yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia), Black-throated green warblers (Dendroica virens), Savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), Rough-winged swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis), Yellow-shafted flickers (Colaptes auratus), White-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana), oryzivorus), Eastern meadowlarks (Sturnella magna), Water pipits (Anthus rubescens), Marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris), Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Great egret (Ardea albus), Mallards (Anas platyrhnchos), and Ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus).

In and around the lake one can spot the Eastern Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus), carp (Cyprinus carpio) and killfish (genus Fundulus).

The Department of Agriculture’s Urban Resources Partnership Program provided a $22,000 grant for the path, which winds through the wetlands of Willow Lake, bounded by Park Drive East, the Metropolitan Transit Association Rail Yard, 113 Place, and Jewel Avenue.

There were 224,000 acres of wetland in New York City when the Europeans first came to America. Now only 2,000 acres of freshwater wetland remain. Willow Lake and the Willow Lake Trail are vital resources for Queens and all of New York City.

Directions to Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Flushing Meadows Corona Park Weather

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