It all goes back to a love story. But it isn’t one that ends with happily ever after. Creve Coeur Lake in Missouri has been a destination stop for lovers and those who appreciate a good unrequited love story, to see the lake forever changed by a young girl’s broken heart.
The story goes that a young Indian princess had fallen love with a French fur trapper. Regrettably, her love remained unrequited despite her efforts to obtain the Frenchman’s affections. Distraught, the princess decided she just could not live without the love she so desperately sought. Climbing to a ledge overlooking the lake, the young girl jumped to her death. Filled with so much sadness, the lake could not contain the grief the princess felt. It formed itself into a broken heart and was named Creve Coeur, French for “broken heart.” The ledge she leapt from wasn’t spared from her heartache either, now known as Dripping, or Weeping, Springs.
Archaeologists have found signs that Indians inhabited the Creve Coeur area as far back as 9500 BC. In all reality, it wouldn’t be a stretch for a young Indian girl to meet up with a fur trapper. Lewis and Clark interpreter and Shoshone Indian Sacagawea was married to French fur trapper and explorer Toussaint Charbonneau, although she was sold to him by the Hidatsa tribe that had kidnapped her. In fact, the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled through Creve Coeur in 1803, after the United States acquired the land through the Louisiana Purchase. And the French were some of the first settlers in the land, although it would later have a significant German population, as well.
Legends set aside, Creve Coeur is still something to see as the largest natural lake in Missouri. The oxbow lake sits in the 2,114-acre Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, the first and largest county park in St. Louis County. While the city was only incorporated in 1949, they take pride in their history. Cabins are located throughout the area dating back more than 200 years. Two such cabins, the Hackmann and Clester cabins in Conway Park, still stand as a testament to how far the area has come since its earliest settlers. The city also maintains two buildings from the late 1800’s—a one-room schoolhouse known as the Lake School House and the Tappmeyer farmhouse.
Maybe today Creve Coeur is more of a story of redemption rather than lost loves and broken hearts. The lake formed from heavy grief is now a place for families to bond over picnicking and tennis or golf. The lake and surrounding wetlands are also habitat for nearly half of the waterfowl species on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Conservation Concern Checklist. Creve Coeur Lake could be considered a place of happy hearts where history and wildlife thrive. But the broken-heart shape of the lake, along with stories passed down through generations, will continue to serve as reminders that not everyone gets a happily ever after at Creve Coeur Lake, the lake of broken hearts.