Ellis Lake is an artificial lake in Marysville, named for W. T. Ellis, Jr. The park surrounding it is called Ellis Lake Park. The south section of the park is bounded on the north and south by 14th and 9th Streets and on the east and west by B and D Streets, while the north section of the park extends approximately to 16th street and is bounded on the east and west by C and E Streets.
There are several islands in the center of the lake, including one called Gazebo Island and another called North Ellis Lake Island. Pedal boats crisscross the lake, and people fish in it. The adjoining park provides picnic tables. Marysville Municipal Code § 16.50 tells how to apply for a permit for your group to have exclusive use of Gazebo Island or North Ellis Lake Island during a specified time period.
Canadian and domestic geese, mallard ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and various other birds can be seen at the lake. They frequently wander out onto nearby 9th Street, stopping traffic as drivers try to avoid hitting them.
Help Ellis Lake Prosper is an organization dedicated to improving Ellis Lake.
Per Marysville Municipal Code § 6.20, it is illegal to swim in, wade in, waterski on, have any form of body contact with the water of, or place or operate a motorboat in Ellis Lake without special written permission from the Marysville City Council. This is because the water is polluted. Punishment is a $100 fine for the first offense and a $150 fine for each subsequent offense.
Per Marysville Municipal Code § 16.30, fishing in Ellis Lake is permitted with a valid fishing license. Punishment for fishing without a valid license is a $150 fine.
Per Marysville Municipal Code § 16.40, it is illegal to use, possess, or sell fireworks in Ellis Lake Park without a permit from the director of public works or the fire chief. Punishment is a fine of up to $250.
Per Marysville Municipal Code § 16.20, it is illegal to possess or consume any alcoholic beverage in Ellis Lake Park without a permit. Punishment is a $250 fine.
Per Marysville Municipal Code §16.04, it is illegal to be in any park or recreation area in Marysville except Beckwourth Riverfront Park Complex at any time between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. It is also illegal to play "hazardous games"—including horseshoe tossing, archery, and flying a motorized model airplane—in any park or recreation area in Marysville. Punishment for either of these offenses is a $250 fine.
The area that is now Ellis Lake was originally a natural spillway of the Feather River. In times of high rainfall, excess water from the Feather River spilled out into Marysville, discharging into the Yuba River at what is now F Street. When the Marysville Levees were built, this spillway was closed off at both ends, first by small levees beginning in 1857 and then more effectively by the current levees, which were built in 1875. But between the levees, the channel through which the excess river water had flowed remained, collecting rainwater each winter. Residents referred to it as "the slough." W. T. Ellis, Jr., for whom Ellis Lake is named, wrote in his autobiography Memories: My Seventy-Two Years in the Romantic County of Yuba, California about this slough and how he worked to transform it into its current form as an artificial lake:
|Back of my father's home at 8th and D Street, the lake was very wide in the winter time but in the summer it drained almost dry north to 14th Street and when I became old enough, my father bought me the first hammerless shot gun ever seen in Marysville, for which he paid $200. I used to walk up the lake bottom as far as 14th Street and shoot ducks and snipe which were always plentiful. Later on, as the rivers filled with debris and the lake could not drain dry, I was the proud possessor of the only round bottom boat with a large sail which I managed to capsize occasionally when a stiff north wind was blowing. I took a lot of pleasure in that lake, boating, swimming and fishing and as I grew older, the idea came to me that some time it could be made a beautiful park and when I commenced to earn money, when opportunities offered, I bought up these "slough lots" at moderate prices, the taxes amounting to but little. I kept acquiring lots in this way, until I owned the greater portion of the water area and conceived the idea of obtaining some of the shore properties. It was then that I arranged to incorporate the "Ellis Lake Improvement Company"; this was in 1906, the officials were W. T. Ellis, Jr., President and C. F. Aaron, Secretary.|
|What properties I had been accumulating for a number of years past, and which were major lake portions, I turned over to the Company and took stock for. We then sold some non-assessable stock to various parties, W. P. Hammon and John Martin each investing $500 and with these additional monies, more properties were purchased. The new corporation had in all about two meetings of its Board of Directors and none afterward; in the meantime I continued to advance necessary monies for taxes, etc.|
|On December 7, 1914, I made an agreement with the Mayor and Council, that if they would fill in D Street, carry out a sewer to the north side of 14th Street, to keep sewage out of the lake, and make improvements on the lake area, that the Ellis Lake Improvement Company would deed all its properties, consisting of about twenty-five acres to the City for the sum of $1.00. The City accepted the offer and about two years afterward, when improvements were completed, the deed to all the properties was turned over to the City and on March 6, 1916, the Council gave me a warrant on the City Treasury for the One Dollar, which I never cashed but have kept in my possession as a memento.|
|When we deeded this property over to the City, we reserved out the large area, 200 feet x 160 feet on the northeast corner of D and 13th Streets. Six years later, I waited on the Council and told them that this property really should belong to the lake area and that for some sixteen years I had been paying all the taxes and other expenses of the Ellis Lake Improvement Company and that this had amounted to $1016.77 and suggested that if they were interested in this property, I would sell it to them for the sum of $1000, provided they accepted the same on the basis of the original transfer of the larger area, which was that it was to be used solely for park purposes by the City. As the price I offered for this new property to the City was much less than its actual value, (the City's valuation on same being $3,550) the offer was accepted and in June 1922 the property was turned over to the City.|
In 1924, the Women's Improvement Club of Marysville commissioned Robbie McLaren, the designer of Golden Gate Park, to turn the current site of Ellis Lake from a slough into a more enjoyable lake. The project was completed in 1939.
In 2002, the skeletal body of Mary Jane Gooding was found in a car at the bottom of Ellis Lake, in seven feet of water. Police believe she accidentally drove her husband's car into the lake in 1981. Her children contend that she was a victim of foul play.
In 2004, the annual Fourth of July fireworks display went awry when a firework was accidentally shot from Gazebo Island into the crowd surrounding the lake. At least 15 people were injured, including a 14-year-old girl who had to have her leg amputated just below the knee.
In 2007, a new computerized fountain and lighting system were installed on one of the islands. The new system lights the lake in 37 different colors from 8pm to midnight, year-round.