Picturesque piece of land is quintessential Albert Lea scene

Published 11:24 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

A placid Fountain Lake reflects Katherine Island and a mostly cloudy sky this morning. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

A placid Fountain Lake reflects Katherine Island and a mostly cloudy sky this morning. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

No. 7: Katherine Island

For more than 100 years, Katherine Island has been a popular place in Albert Lea for picnics, weddings, fishing and just watching the cars and boats pass by.

The island comes in as No. 7 on the Tribune’s countdown of 25 favorite places of Albert Leans.

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An urban myth surrounded the formation of Katherine Island, and it turned out to be based on fact. The myth stated that Katherine Island was created from a floating mass of vegetation in the lake. The island was really created by peat bogs of water plants that formed a series of islands in Fountain Lake.

One of these peat bogs created Dress Island, and a bog that floated further south anchored by dirt and rocks created Katherine Island.

Early maps of the city from 1878 show that Katherine Island, which was called Pearl Island back then, had been formed at its present location.

There was some squabble about the name — is it Catherine or Katherine Island? The island was named for Katherine Ruble, a member of the Ruble family that owned part of Fountain Lake shoreline in the 1900s.

Katherine is also the granddaughter of George S. Ruble, one of the city’s first residents and the original builder of the Fountain Lake dam.

In 1908, Katherine Island was offered as a park to the city of Albert Lea, but the transfer didn’t happen until Sept. 3, 1913.

One misconception is that Katherine Island is part of New Denmark Park, which used to be called Lincoln Park. However, these two parks are separate. In fact, city records list that Katherine Park has an area of 0.2 acres.

In 2007, the wooden bridge that was in place since the late 1940s or early 1950s was replaced with a steel bridge manufactured by Pro Manufacturing of Albert Lea. In 2008, a new bench was placed on the island.

Even though the island is submerged by high water almost every spring, Katherine Island remains one of Albert Lea’s most visible places. Who doesn’t glance over at the island while walking or driving on Bridge Avenue to see Christmas lights, fishermen, water levels, birds or the nearby fountains?

Ever since the park’s formation just over 101 years ago, it has been a popular and recognizable spot for Albert Leans. The fountains of Fountain Lake and New Denmark Park’s mermaid statue create the quintessential Albert Lea postcard.


25 favorite places 

The Tribune staff compiled what it feels are the 25 favorite places of Albert Leans. The results will be published over the course of the coming week. What will be No. 1? Agree or disagree, it will be enjoyable to mull over and discuss. Send feedback to