Reston Then and Now: Lake Audubon

This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to South Lakes to take a look at Lake Audubon.

With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a look at how the lake has evolved from overhead and under the surface.

Audubon is the largest of Reston’s lakes in both it’s acreage — 43.5 acres — and it’s extensive watershed covering 1,558.5 acres.

While Lake Thoreau holds 26.5 million gallons of water, it’s southern twin holds 133.6 million gallons.

Lake Audubon and Lake Thoreau were conceived to be one lake, then named Lake Elsa. The lake was impounded in 1971 and was named for Reston founder Robert Simon’s mother.

But in 1979 the South Lakes dam bisected the property and split the lake, creating Lake Thoreau in the North and Lake Audubon in the south.

For years, the southern area closed off by the dam, but for years afterwards remained a dry pit. During the 1980s, the lake was filled in with water.

But while the lake shows very little change from above between 1997 and 2017, there were plenty of changes taking place beneath the water’s surface. In those years, several new species of aquatic wildlife was introduced to the lake, including:

  • Redear Sunfish
  • Black Crappie
  • Brown Bullhead
  • American Eel

In more recent years, the levels of contamination in the water continue to be a problem, caused in large part by the lake’s large surface area. According to a 2017 report on Reston’s lakes, Lake Audubon’s has faced increasing amounts of toxic algae that pose an ecological threat to the lake.

Increasing levels of toxic algae culminated with a warning to local residents to avoid contact with the lake, leading to a dredging project earlier this year.

For more Reston Then and Now, check out:

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