Creve Coeur Memorial Lake Park is located in Maryland Heights, Missouri and surrounds the 320 acre Creve Coeur Lake. It became the first St. Louis County Park on June 3, 1945.
Creve Coeur Lake formed several thousand years ago when a meander loop of the Missouri River was cut off. The original lake varied in depth form 10 to 30 feet and covered over 400 acres. Until the mid-20th century a smaller lake was located to the west of the big lake. It was called the Upper or Little Creve Coeur Lake. It gradually disappeared due to siltation.
The name is French, literally meaning “broken heart” but used as a figure of speech to describe a great grief or sorrow. Although spurious tales of Indian maidens have been told about the origins of the name, the truth is that the Anglo settlers in this area never learned why earlier French settlers had employed this expression. It might relate to a local event, but it could equally refer to one of at least five places in France, to a fort built in Illinois in 1680 by La Salle, or to one of several French family names.
Creve Coeur Lake became the site of a large resort and vacation area. In 1881, the Missouri Pacific Railroad built a spur line to the lake from Laclede Station. Jacob Studt, a local farmer and general store owner, built the first of several hotels, dance pavilions, and boathouses on the Upper Lake. In 1899, he offered grounds and a subsidy for the annual county fair, which was held there for about thirty years.
The upper level of the park was once the site of a large amusement park known as “Electric Park.” In 1899, the United Railway Company, which later became Bi-State Development Agency, constructed a line from Delmar Gardens, at Delmar & Kingsland, to the park. The brick building centrally located in the park was originally a booster station for the city electricity that powered the streetcars. The brick building was also the location of the “loop,” where the streetcars turned around to return to the city. The maintenance building area is where the cars entered and exited the park; the original rail ties can still be seen in that area.
Around the 1920s the area began to decline in popularity as gangsters and hoodlums began to frequent the saloons, restaurants and nightclubs located at the lakefront. By the end of Prohibition, Creve Coeur was almost exclusively a gangster hideout.
In 1969 St. Louis County purchased all the land surrounding the lake, including the Creve Coeur Beach Subdivision, a development east of Marine Drive that went back to the 1920s. From 1974 until 1981 Creve Coeur Lake was the site of a major dredging operation. Surface acreage increased from 220 acres to 320 acres and the average depth increased from 18 inches to 10 feet. This project opened the lake up to renewed use. In the course of dredging, a large quantity of sand was located. The project was then slightly modified to take advantage of this and the result is the 1600 feet of beach along Marine Avenue. Since its completion, this EPA-funded project has become well known to the dredging industry as the biggest and most successful local government dredging project in the country.
In 1999 1,005.8 acres were added to Creve Coeur Park as part of a mitigation associated with the Page Avenue extension project. 167 acres of the mitigation tract have been leased to Crystal Springs Golf Club for 30 years, until December 2029.
Creve Coeur Park includes the picturesque “Dripping Springs” waterfall, reservable and non-reservable shelters and picnic sites, fishing, four playground areas and a spray fountain play area. The park is one of the top local destinations for active families with amenities such as trails, disc golf, archery, boating, biking and tennis. Creve Coeur Park is also home to Missouri’s first tree-top adventure course, Go Ape Creve Coeur.
Creve Coeur Park has St. Louis County's only Water Trail and is included in the Missouri River Greenway.