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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — People walking in downtown Sacramento near the train station would have once been greeted by a lake that covered several blocks of the city.

Originally named Sutter Lake, a map made by a city surveyor, dated 1873, shows the body of water stretching from Front and Sixth streets, between I and G streets. The life of the lake dates back even further, however. 

Map from Ormando Willis Gray, “Gray’s Atlas of the United States” published in the Philadelphia by Stedman, Brown & Lyon in 1874. (from California State Railroad Museum Library via

The lake was in “pristine” condition from the early- to mid-1800s. But the railroad industry’s expansion around the 1860s devastated the lake’s condition.

The city of Sacramento’s website says waste from the railroad operations near the lake was dumped into the water. The water quality quickly deteriorated, and people soon took to calling the lake a “swamp.”

(Photo from City of Sacramento)

It was eventually given the name China Slough out of contempt for the Chinese community who had made their home along the banks of the lake. 

Sutter Lake was deemed a public nuisance due to the water’s quality, and some weren’t thrilled that it served as an “unwelcoming gateway feature” to the Arden Station — which was on G Street, between Second and Third streets. It was also prone to flooding and posed a potential danger to the area.

According to the city, people called for it to be filled in and for a new train station to be built. 

It wasn’t until 1908 that work began toward filling in the now-swampy lake. According to the city, the railroad operation began moving sand from the American River into the lake. 

It took over two years for the lake, which had a depth of up to 40 feet in some parts, to be filled with sand. 

Now, the area is home to the Sacramento Valley Station.