Lake Merced is a freshwater lake in the southwest corner of San Francisco. It is surrounded by three golf courses (the private Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club, and the public TPC Harding Park), as well as residential areas, Lowell High School, San Francisco State University, Fort Funston and the Pacific Ocean. The San Francisco Police Department shooting range, as well as a skeet shooting club and the city's National Guard armory are also in the area. It is the home lake of Pacific Rowing Club, a competitive rowing program for San Francisco high school students.
Lake Merced was originally christened Laguna de Nuestra Señora de la Merced by Captain Don Bruno de Heceta in 1775. Father Pedro Font, while on the de Anza Expedition to found the Presidio of San Francisco in March, 1776 wrote in his diary, "we saw a grove of live oaks near which is the Laguna de la Merced, where Captain Ribera stopped; and here we saw many bears (California Grizzly Bear)..." Once owned by Francisco De Haro, first Alcalde of Yerba Buena, as part of the Galindo ranch, the Spring Valley Water Company bought the water rights for the Lake in 1868, and the surrounding watershed in successive years. By purchasing all local supply, the company created a monopoly on San Francisco's water. It was not until 1908, when the city approved construction of O'Shaughnessy Dam creating the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, that the city gained municipal control. Prior to the construction of the dam, Lake Merced was to serve as the city's main reservoir, with plans to expand the lake into land that is now the San Francisco State University campus. Around this time, Spring Valley sold off some of its land on Lake Merced, making way for the golf courses that exist today. In 1940, Metropolitan Life bought the last of Spring Valley's land to build the Parkmerced apartment complex. Lake Merced at one time directly flowed into the ocean.