Lake of the Isles is known for its two wooded islands, its long north arm, and the stately houses of the Kenwood, Lowry Hill and East Isles neighborhoods which surround it. The two wooded islands are protected wildlife refuges which contain virgin woods. Exploring or landing on either Mike's Island (to the north) or Raspberry Island (to the south) is prohibited, as marked by signs.
The lake was created in its current form in the early 20th century by dredging a small lake (called Wita Tomna meaning "Four Islands Lake" by the local Dakota people) and marsh complex. The dredged materials—mostly peat and silt -- were used to create about of park land around the lake. Unfortunately, the settling of these materials and the pressure of urban development has led to an unstable shoreline and reduced water quality. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is in the middle of a multi-year project to stabilize the shoreline, renovate the parkland, and put in twelve stone lake access points.