Wapato Park - Joint Base Lewis McChord

M Updated
Wapato Lake in Tacoma, Washington State
Wapato Dog Park in Tacoma, Washington State
Wapato Fishing and Boating Dock in Tacoma, Washington State

City Listings

City Listing Category

Geographical Address

Duty Station (or best approximation)
Public Address
6500 S. Sheridan Ave Tacoma, WA 98408

Contact Info

+1 253-305-1000
Operating Hours
Open ½ hour before sunrise | Close ½ hour after sunset

Wapato Park lies in a beautiful setting of lake and forest. Features include a walking trail around the lake (.9 miles), a playground, a dog park, picnic shelters, and an impressive, historic pergola.


Wapato Lake has formed approximately 15,000 years ago during the retreat of the Fraser Ice Sheet. The lake was likely formed as a basin in glacial drift, created by a block of ice that melted after the retreat of the main ice sheet. The area was once a heavily forested rolling plain. Vashon Till underlies the area.

The Native American name for the lake was “Wappato” for a wild plant (sagittaria latifolia) that grew in profusion around the lake. The plant produced small bulbs that looked like potatoes. These thickened root stocks were an important part of the diet of local Native Americans. The Indian Henry Trail from Mount Rainier to Commencement Bay ran east of Wapato Lake and one branch of the trail led to Wapato.

Little is known of the early history of the lake. The U. S. Government Land Office’s field notes and map make no particular mention of the lake other than to note its existence at the time of the original township and section survey in 1862.

The growth of Tacoma’s south end and the area around Wapato Lake was originally dependent upon the construction, in 1888, of R. F. Radebaugh’s narrow gauge streetcar line to Fern Hill, a small community located six miles south of Commencement Bay. This line ran in the vicinity of South M Street near the Indian Henry Trail. Radebaugh had come to Tacoma in 1881 when he and H. C. Patrick started the Tacoma Weekly Ledger newspaper. That same year he purchased 80 acres on Wapato Lake where he built a cottage. At that time there were only two families living between his Wapato home and his workplace in downtown Tacoma. Radebaugh was “carried to and from his office by horse”. In addition to his many investments and business interests, Radebaugh made many judicious real estate purchases, including the purchase of an additional 280 acres surrounding Wapato Lake.

Radebough bought out his streetcar partners and continued the Fern Hill line to Wapato Lake where he planned to build a fashionable residence district. He platted the land, sold large tracts, and developed Wapato Lake Park. He hired Ebenezer Roberts to oversee the development. Roberts’ “artistic sense and boundless enthusiasm soon began to make a floral fairyland of the place”. It was the beginning of real park work in Tacoma.



Summer Meal Program 2020


Summer Lunch Program

June 28 – Sept. 3,  2021 12-1 pm Monday-Friday

Lunch is served 12-1 pm. Free lunch is available to all youth under 18 years of age at the locations listed below.

Activities and meals will available at these locations:

  • Franklin Park, 1201 S. Puget Sound Ave
  • Portland Ave Park, 3513 Portland Ave
  • South Park, 4851 S. Tacoma Way
  • Titlow Park, 8425 6th Ave
  • Verlo Playfield, 4321 McKinley Ave
  • Wapato Park, 6500 S. Sheridan Ave
  • Wright Park, 501 South I St.

Proudly partnering with City of Fife to provide lunches to those youth.

Metro Parks would like to thank Safe Streets and the Asian Pacific Cultural Center for partnering with us to provide this service.


Play Area Accessibility Details:

  • Parking: Yes – designated for Park
  • Restroom: Yes – near but not at playground
  • Water Fountain: Yes – located at restroom
  • Surface: Wood fiber
  • Swings: Yes – (0) high back swings
  • Ground Play: Primarily elevated play features
  • Adaptive Play: Two structures with transfer system
  • Sensory Play: Audio Tubes, Manipulatives
  • Play Tables: None
  • Shade: Semi-shaded
  • Accommodations: Several portable picnic tables in shade; limited benches
  • Sprayground: No





Fishing and Boating:

Fishing The lake is stocked every spring with trout. Anglers must be 15 years old or younger to fish at Wapato Lake. No fishing license required. Fish may be taken home, we do not require catch and release. Dept of Fish & Wildlife

Boating Non-motorized boats are permitted on the lake. The dock near the Pavilion features a kayak/canoe launch area.

New Docks Finished in 2018

In 2018 the new docks at Wapato Park were finished and open for public use thanks to voter approval of the 2014 bond. But, these docks weren’t built with bond funds alone. Metro Parks Tacoma applied for and won a state Recreation and Conservation Office grant of more than $450,000 to help pay the cost. The grant essentially freed $450,000 in bond funds to spend on other projects in the district. It’s one example of how Metro Parks Tacoma stretches your tax dollar further.




Wapato features three fully fenced areas for pets to romp leash free with their owners – including one reserved just for small dogs. Benches and shelters are provided on-site.

Dog park etiquette

  • Keep your dog from jumping on or interfering with other people and their dogs.
  • Off-leash does not mean out of control. Aggressive dogs must be removed immediately.
  • Guests must remain with their pets, keeping them within view and under verbal control to remain within the signed boundary markers at all times.
  • Dogs must have up-to-date vaccinations and dog license.
  • Females in heat are not allowed in the park.
  • Pick up and properly dispose of your dog’s waste. It’s the law.
  • Have your dog on a leash when entering and leaving the park. Dogs are required by the Tacoma Municipal Code to be leashed in parks, except in designated off-leash areas.
  • Make sure that only one gate is open at a time.
  • No wheeled items, i.e. strollers, wagons, wheelbarrows, bicycles, etc.
  • Children must be supervised by a parent or guardian.
  • Act responsibly. Use the park at your own risk.

Additional Information

  • You Cannot Bring a dog or cat to: (service animals are allowed)
    • Point Defiance Zoo
    • Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
    • Tacoma Nature Center
    • Any of our athletic complexes – SERA, Heidelberg or Peck Field.
  • Municipal Code
  • Leash Law All dogs are required to be on a leash no longer than eight feet or confined to their owner’s property at all times. The only exception provided for in the leash law ordinance is if the dog is in a designated off-leash area.Dogs roaming free are in violation of the leash law ordinance. Dogs are not allowed at the locations listed above, even if on a leash. They may be seized or impounded by City of Tacoma Animal Care & Control officers.Owners of dogs running loose may receive a summons and/or a fine.To report a dog running loose or for more information about the leash law, call (253) 627-PETS (7387).There is no leash law for cats.
  • Scoop that Poop Make sure to dispose of pet droppings in the garbage (in a plastic bag) or flush it down the toilet. No matter how big or small the deposit, you can bank on the fact that it will pollute our waters. Pet waste has harmful bacteria in it that contributes to water quality problems, possibly in your neighborhood. With all the pets it adds up, so do your part to clean it up.
  • What Is Kennel Cough?Kennel Cough (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Dogs commonly contract kennel cough at places where large amounts of canines congregate, such as boarding and daycare facilities, dog parks, training groups, and dog shows. Dogs can spread it to one another through airborne droplets, direct contact (e.g., touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water/food bowls). It’s highly treatable in most dogs but can be more severe in puppies younger than six months of age and immunocompromised dogs. Learn more

Helpful contacts

Animal Care & Control 627-PETS (7387) or 911

  • Animal bites
  • Aggressive animals
  • Injured or sick animals
  • Found animals
  • Animal cruelty or welfare
  • Stray animal pick-up
  • Other services requiring a timely response

Humane Society 253-383-2733

  • Shelter for local animals


Trail Map:

Wapato Park 2



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