There’s something quite magical about a lake decorated with the elegance of a white marble archway and majestic columns. Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park is home to a structure that fits this very description. Named in memory of former park commissioner Reuben Headley Lloyd, not many recognize that the lake serves as the reservoir responsible for pumping water up the adjacent hill to Rainbow Falls. Lloyd Lake is also part of a fascinating mysteriousness that has led to the creation of a handful of urban myths.

The Portals to the Past

The remains of Alban Nelson Towne’s Nob Hill home that once graced 1101 California Street is found at the lake – offering an example of early San Francisco architecture. This feature is located between John F. Kennedy Drive and Crossover Drive. Affectionately called “Portals to the Past,” Towne’s wife donated the glamorous-looking portico to the park in 1909 – after an earthquake and fire destroyed the original building in 1906. This piece of architecture is one of the features that attract young lovers and engaged couples for many years.

Things to Do at Lloyd Lake

Throughout the year, numerous wedding ceremonies take place at the Portals of the Past and Lloyd Lake. To reserve the Lloyd Lake location, you can contact San Francisco Recreation & Parks to secure the site.

A variety of tree species decorates the landscape of Lloyd Lake and provides relief from a hot, sunny day with an ample amount of shade. Lloyd Lake accommodates the comings and goings of both native and migratory birds in the park, including geese, ducks, Campbell ducks, mallards, gulls, and Muscovy ducks. Overall, the relatively quiet nature of the lake offers a tranquil setting that allows visitors to adequately absorb the sights and sounds of nature.

During a visit to Lloyd Lake, many visitors will get lost in a book, meditate, or simply listen to what Mother Nature has to say.

From a visiting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of ‘Sherlock Holmes’) in the 1920s to a mention in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo,” Lloyd Lake possesses an intriguing history. Some people also come to the lake to investigate the urban myths and alleged occult connections related to the site – just as Doyle did. Both the lake and the Portals are believed to produce small floating luminous globes and sightings of ghostly figures.


Lloyd Lake (and the Portals of the Past) is located at John F. Kennedy Drive and 23rd Avenue.