Woman paddleboards ‘Lake Chipotle,’ the famously-flooded Minneapolis parking lot

A woman paddleboards on a puddle
Christina Neel paddleboards on a puddle in the parking lot of a Chipotle in uptown Minneapolis, also known as "Lake Chipotle," on Wednesday.
Courtesy Melody Hoffmann
Published: 5:16 p.m. Jan. 18 | Updated: 11 a.m. Jan. 19

One voyager crossed the waves of “Lake Chipotle” in Minneapolis on a mere inflatable paddle board Tuesday evening. There were many dangers this new lake created: dark waters Nessy could hide in, high risk of wet socks and soggy burritos. 

Christina Neel, who said she works in rural city planning and lives in the Twin Cities, said she decided to paddleboard in the infamous puddle to make a point.

A pool of water outside a Chipotle on Hennepin Ave
A pool of water outside a Chipotle on Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis, dubbed "Lake Chipotle", was drained Wednesday early evening.
Jacob Aloi | MPR News

“Lake Chipotle is a delight. But it is also kind of a safety hazard. And people have to wade through it to get from place to place,” she said.

“What I try to do in any of my light activism is make it a little bit delight-cultivating but also show I'm not just doing this for funsies — it's because I care that there's flooding just around.”

Neel had heard about the lake off Hennepin Avenue and West 26th Street in the East Isles neighborhood last year and “thought it was a super rare occurrence,” but it actually has been around for years.

The infamous puddle has emerged whenever snow and ice melt, as they have this week. The water can rise easily above ankle level and even up the calf. The puddle is so big that it earned its nickname as well as fans and even a website, lakechipotle.org.

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“The parking lot is a private drainage issue. The city looked into this last season and made Chipotle’s management aware of the situation. The City’s Sewer Division is not involved,” Minneapolis Public Works told MPR News on Wednesday.

The return of the lake drew others to visit on Tuesday, too. Neel said she initially planned to get food after paddleboarding but got so excited after running into friends also visiting the fake lake that she forgot to order anything. 

For proper drainage, Neel claims it’s easier in rural areas because “you can plant a lot more greenery to soak up soggy areas, and we can look at different soil types to see it used to be a historic wetland, causing the constant flooding in that area.”

Lake Chipotle’s floor is, of course, paved, meaning there’s little chance greenery could soak it up. Within the cities, there are “heaps and heaps of pavement, and once snow and ice clog up the drains, you have to literally go out there with an ice chipper.”

“It's so fun! It's really satisfying to go out there and pound into it and break up the ice around the drains — otherwise, that water has nowhere to go.”

Employees at the Chipotle location declined to comment. Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, stated, “We appreciate tourists flocking to ‘Lake Chipotle’ despite weather-related challenges in this parking area. Infrastructure work to improve the site and expand the shoreline will be complete in the coming months.”

Tragically, Neel may be the first and last to voyage Lake Chipotle. As of Wednesday afternoon, contractors began to drain the life from Lake Chipotle. Is this the end, or will these tiny, strange tides return?

MPR News reporter Jacob Aloi contributed to this story.