Saint Anthony Falls or the Falls of Saint Anthony, located northeast of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River. The natural falls were replaced by a concrete overflow spillway (also called an "apron") after it partially collapsed in 1869. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, a series of locks and dams was constructed to extend navigation to points upstream.
Named after the Catholic saint Anthony of Padua, the falls is the birthplace of the former city of St. Anthony and to Minneapolis when the two cities joined in 1872 to fully use its economic power for milling operations. From 1880 to about 1930, Minneapolis was the "Flour Milling Capital of the World".
Today, the falls are defined by the locks and dams of the Upper Saint Anthony Falls, just downstream of the 3rd Avenue Bridge, and the Lower Saint Anthony Falls, just upstream of the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. These locks were built as part of the Upper Mississippi River 9-Foot Navigation Project. The area around the falls is designated the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and features a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) self-guided walking trail with signs explaining the area's past.
St. Anthony Falls Historic District
Saint Anthony Falls with the upper dam and lock, viewed from south-east; there is also a lower dam and lock further downstream.
|Built||Apron built 1848|
|Architect||Apron by Ard Godfrey, et al.|
|NRHP reference #||71000438|
|Added to NRHP||March 11, 1971|
Before European exploration, the falls held cultural and spiritual significance for native tribes who frequented and lived in the area. The falls was an important and sacred site to the Mdewakanton Dakota and they called the Mississippi River, hahawakpa, "river of the falls". The falls (Haha) themselves were given specific names, mnirara "curling waters", owahmenah "falling waters", or owamni, "whirlpool" (mniyomni in the Eastern Dakota dialect and owamniyomni in the Teton Dakota (Lakota) dialect). Dakota associated the falls with legends and spirits, including Oanktehi, god of waters and evil, who lived beneath the falling water. The sacred falls also enters into their oral tradition by a story of a warrior's first wife who killed herself and their two children in anguish and forlorn love for the husband who had assumed a second wife. The rocky islet where the woman had pointed her canoe towards doom thus was named Spirit Island which was once a nesting ground for eagles that fed on fish below the falls. Dakota also camped on Nicollet Island upstream of the falls to fish and to tap the sugar maple trees.
Since the cataract had to be portaged, the area became one of the natural resting and trade points along the Mississippi between Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples. The Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) term was recorded as "kakabikah" (gakaabikaa, "split rock" or more descriptively, gichi-gakaabikaa, "the great severed rock" which referenced the jagged chunks of limestone constantly eroding by the falls).
In 1680, the falls became known to the Western world when they were observed and published in a journal by Father Louis Hennepin, a Catholic friar of Belgian birth, who also first published about Niagara Falls to the world's attention. Hennepin named them the Chutes de Saint-Antoine or the Falls of Saint Anthony after his patron saint, Anthony of Padua. Later explorers to document the falls include Jonathan Carver and Zebulon Montgomery Pike.
Following the establishment of Fort Snelling in 1820, the falls became an attraction for tourists, writers and artists who sought inspiration even if Hennepin's descriptions were not as majestic as hoped for. By the 1860s, however, industrial waste had filled the area and marred the falls' majesty. Further competition over the power of the falls on both banks of the river led to its eventual downfall when it partially collapsed in 1869 and was reinforced and subsequently sealed by a concrete overflow spillway (or "apron").
The area around the river was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District in 1971 which includes 8th Avenue Northeast extending downstream to 6th Avenue Southeast and approximately two city blocks on both shoreline. The district's archaeological record is one of the most-endangered historic sites in Minnesota. The National Register of Historic Places is facilitated by the National Park Service. The national significance of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District is a major reason why the National Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area was established along the Mississippi River in the Minneapolis – Saint Paul metropolitan area.
A Heritage Trail plaque nearby says,
For untold generations of Indian people the Mississippi River was an important canoe route. To pass around the falls, the Dakota (Sioux) and Ojibway (Chippewa) used a well-established portage trail. Starting at a landing below the site now occupied by the steam plant, the trail climbed the bluff to this spot. From here it followed the east bank along what is now Main Street to a point well above the falls.
Geologists say that the falls first appeared roughly 12,000 years ago about 10 miles (16 km) downstream at the confluence of the glacial River Warren (at present-day Ft. Snelling). Estimates are that the falls were about 180 feet (55 m) high when the River Warren Falls receded past the confluence of the Mississippi River and the glacial River Warren. Over the succeeding 10,000 years, the falls moved upstream to its present location. The water churning at the bottom of the falls ate away at the soft sandstone, eventually breaking off the hard limestone cap in chunks as the falls receded. From its origins near Fort Snelling, St. Anthony Falls relocated upstream at a rate of about 4 feet (1.2 m) per year until it reached its present location in the early 19th century. Tributaries such as Minnehaha Creek begot their own waterfalls as the Mississippi River valley was cut into the landscape.
When Father Louis Hennepin documented the falls he estimated the falls' height to be 50 or 60 feet (18 m). Later explorers described it as being in the range of 16 to 20 feet (6.1 m) high. The discrepancy may have been due to scope, as the current total drop in river level over the series of dams is 76 ft (23 m).
The geological formation of the area consisted of a hard, thin layer of Platteville Formation, a limestone, overlaying the soft St. Peter Sandstone sub-surface. These layers were the result of an Ordovician Period sea which covered east-central Minnesota 500 million years ago.
The first private land claim at the falls was made by Franklin Steele in 1838 — though he didn't obtain financing for development until 1847, in the form of $12,000 for a 9/10 stake in the property. On May 18, 1848 president Polk approved the claims made in St. Anthony, and Steele was able to build his dam on the east side of the river above the Falls, blocking the east channel.
The dam extended diagonally into the river 700 feet (210 m), was 16 feet (4.9 m) high, and was secured to the limestone riverbed. Its thickness tapered from 40 wide at its base to 12 feet (3.7 m) wide at the top. Steele dispatched logging crews to the Crow Wing River in December 1847 to supply pine for the sawmill, and by September 1, 1848 sawing commenced using two up-down saws. He was able to sell the lumber readily, supplying construction projects in the booming town. The new community at the Falls attracted entrepreneurs from New England, many of whom had experience in lumber and milling. He had hired Ard Godfrey to help build and run the first commercial sawmill at the Falls. Godfrey knew the most efficient ways to use natural resources, like the falls, and the great pine forests, to make lumber products. Godfrey built the first home in St. Anthony, Steele had the town platted in 1849, and it incorporated in 1855.
By 1854, 300 squatters occupied the west bank of the river, and in 1855 Congress recognized the squatters' right to purchase the land they had claimed. The west side quickly developed scores of new mills and consortia. They built a dam diagonally into the river to the north, which, along with Steele's dam created the inverted V-shape, still apparent today. Steele created the St. Anthony Falls Water Power Company in 1856 with three New York financiers, Davis, Gebhard and Sanford. The company struggled for several years, due to poor relations with the financiers, a depression, and the Civil War. In 1868 the firm reorganized with new officers including John Pillsbury, Richard and Samuel Chute, Sumner Farnham, and Frederick Butterfield.
As Minneapolis (and its former neighbor across the river, St. Anthony) developed, the water power at the falls became a source of power for several industries. Water power was used by sawmills, textile mills, and flour mills. Millers on the Minneapolis side formed a consortium to extract power by diverting upper-level water into waterwheel-equipped vertical shafts (driven through the limestone bedrock into the soft, underlying sandstone) and then through horizontal tunnels to the falls' lower level. These shafts and tunnels weakened the limestone and its sandstone foundation, accelerating the falls' upriver erosion to 26 feet (7.9 m) per year between 1857 and 1868. The falls quickly approached the edge of their limestone cap; once the limestone had completely eroded away, the falls would degenerate into sandstone rapids unsuitable for waterpower. The mills on the St. Anthony (east) side of the river were less-well organized harnessing the power, and therefore industry developed at a slower pace on that side.
The early dams built to harness the waterpower exposed the limestone to freezing and thawing forces, narrowed the channel, and increased damage from floods. A report in 1868 found that only eleven hundred feet of the limestone remained upstream, and if it were eroded away, the falls would turn into a rapids that would no longer be useful for waterpower. Meanwhile, the St. Anthony Falls Water Power Company approved a plan for the firm of William W. Eastman and John L. Merriam to build a tunnel under Hennepin and Nicollet Islands that would share the waterpower. This plan was met with disaster on October 5, 1869, when the limestone cap was breached.
The leak turned into a torrent of water coming out the tunnel. The water blasted Hennepin Island, causing a 150-foot (46 m) chunk to fall off into the river. Believing that the mills and all the other industries around the falls would be ruined, hundreds of people rushed to view the impending disaster. Groups of volunteers started shoring up the gap by throwing trees and timber into the river, but that was ineffective. They then built a huge raft of timbers from the milling operations on Nicollet Island. This worked briefly, but also proved ineffective. A number of workers worked for months to build a dam that would funnel water away from the tunnel. The next year, an engineer from Lowell, Massachusetts, recommended completing a wooden apron, sealing the tunnel, and building low dams above the falls to avoid exposing the limestone to the weather. This work was assisted by the federal government, and was eventually completed in 1884. The federal government spent $615,000 on this effort, while the two cities spent $334,500.
St. Anthony Falls was the upper limit of commercial navigation on the Mississippi until two dams and a series of locks were built between 1948 and 1963 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The locks made commercial navigation possible above Minneapolis but, since the locks in Minneapolis are smaller than most of the locks on the rest of the river, the practical limit for many commercial tows is further downriver. A smaller number of barges go to Minneapolis. At midnight on June 9, 2015, the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock was permanently closed by Section 2010 of "H.R.3080 - Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014" which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 10, 2014, and was required to be implemented "Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment" The closure is intended to stop the spread of invasive species, namely two types of Asian carp: bighead carp and silver carp. Minneapolis is once again the site of the head of navigation of the river.
Completed in 1963, the Upper St. Anthony Falls Dam is a horseshoe-shaped hydro-electric dam 49 feet (15 m) in height. The upper pool has a normal capacity of 3,150 acre feet (3,890,000 m3) and a normal level of 799 feet (244 m) above sea level. The navigation channel required alteration of the historic Stone Arch Bridge, which now has a metal truss section to allow ships to pass below.
Completed in 1956, the Lower St. Anthony Falls Dam is a gravity-type hydro-electric dam 26 feet (7.9 m) in height, consisting of a 275-foot (84 m) long concrete spillway with four tainter gates. The lower pool (sometimes called the intermediate pool) has a normal capacity of 375 acre feet (463,000 m3) and a normal level of 750 feet (229 m) above sea level.
The pool below the lower dam has a normal level of 725 feet (221 m) above sea level.
The upper and lower locks are each 56 feet (17 m) wide by 400 feet (120 m) long.
The current around the spillway/falls is often swift and dangerous. In 1991, a small boat drifted too close and fell over one part of the dam. One person on board was killed, and one had to be rescued by helicopter. Rescues at the site are usually much less dramatic, but continue to happen occasionally.
|Locks and dams of the Upper Mississippi River|
Meeker Island Lock and Dam (demolished)
The 10th Avenue Bridge crosses the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota and also in proximity to the University of Minnesota. The bridge was formerly called the Cedar Avenue Bridge from days prior to the construction of the I-35W bridge when it connected to Cedar Ave. The bridge connects 10th Avenue Southeast, on the east side of the Mississippi River to 19th Avenue South, on the west side. The bridge is considered the crowning achievement of Minneapolis city engineer Kristoffer Olsen Oustad, who was one of four prominent Norwegian-American men who designed major structures in the region. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, and also marks the downstream boundary of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District. During the days immediately following the I-35W bridge collapse, the 10th Avenue Bridge was closed to traffic, then later reopened; it was one of the most used locations from which to view the wreckage and the recovery efforts.
Construction on the bridge began in 1926, and it was completed in 1929. The total length is 2,174.9 feet (662.9 m), with two central spans each 265.5 feet (80.9 m) across. It has an open spandrel arch design, and it is constructed of reinforced concrete. Higher and longer than any preceding bridge in the region, it was originally 2,921 feet (890.3 m) in overall length, 698 feet (213 m) longer than the nearby Third Avenue Bridge. It stands 110 feet (33.5 m) above the water's surface. Cost of the bridge was US$891,000. A major restoration was undertaken in 1972–1976, and the approach spans were altered (they were not considered architecturally significant, even when the bridge was new). The south approach span was relocated to go straight to Washington Avenue.
It was built to alleviate the traffic flows on the bridges serving downtown about a mile upstream. Roads in the vicinity were disrupted by the construction of Interstate 35W and a corresponding bridge (completed 1967; collapsed in 2007) one to two blocks upstream (the famous Seven Corners area of Minneapolis is at the south end). The downstream end of the lower Saint Anthony Falls lock and dam extends under the bridge. The historic Southeast Steam Plant is also nearby.Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway
The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway is a linked series of park areas in Minneapolis, Minnesota that takes a roughly circular path through the city. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board developed the system over many years. The corridors include roads for automobile traffic plus paths for pedestrians and bicycles, and extend slightly into neighboring cities. About 50 miles (80 km) of roadway is in the system, and much of it was built in the 1930s as part of Civilian Conservation Corps projects. There are seven districts along the byway:
Downtown Riverfront lies along the Mississippi River, and includes Saint Anthony Falls and nearby historic milling districts. The Byway follows West River Parkway, beginning at Plymouth Avenue, passing Boom Island Park and Nicollet Island Park (both across the river), and Mill Ruins Park, adjacent to the Mill City Museum and the Stone Arch Bridge.
Mississippi River gorge area extends from downtown Minneapolis to Minnehaha Park. The Byway follows West River Parkway, and passes the west bank of the University of Minnesota. Several bridges connect the Byway with trails on the east bank, in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
Minnehaha including Minnehaha Park, Minnehaha Creek, Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha. The Byway follows Godfrey Parkway through Minnehaha Park, past Minnehaha Falls and the Longfellow House information center. Crossing Hiawatha Avenue, the route becomes Minnehaha Parkway. The road passes between Lakes Nokomis and Hiawatha, and then follows Minnehaha Creek to Lake Harriet.
The Chain of Lakes includes seven parks, and its name dates back to the 19th century, when an article referred to "the chain of lakes which, 'like a necklace of diamond in settings of emerald,' enriches Minneapolis". The Chain of Lakes district consists of Lake Harriet, Lyndale Park, Lyndale Farmstead, Bde Maka Ska, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake.
Theodore Wirth (extending into Golden Valley) consists of Theodore Wirth Park. The byway follows Cedar Lake Parkway as it crosses Interstate 394 and becomes Theodore Wirth Parkway. Heading north, it passes the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Wirth Lake. Crossing Olson Memorial Highway, the Parkway enters Theodore Wirth Golf Course.
Victory Memorial includes the northwestern edge of Minneapolis. The byway follows Victory Memorial Parkway, which commemorates the contributions of people from Hennepin County in World War I. Victory Memorial Parkway becomes Weber Parkway. The Byway follows the Camden Bridge across the Mississippi River, which marked the head of navigation for barge traffic on the river until the lock at Upper Lock and Dam was taken out of service.
Northeast runs through Northeast Minneapolis. The Byway follows St Anthony Parkway to Stinson Parkway, and follows that road south to Ridgway Parkway. It passes Columbia Park and Deming Heights Park, and terminates at Francis Gross Golf Course.The area was designated as a Minnesota State Scenic Byway in 1997 and a National Scenic Byway in 1998. The Grand Rounds are considered to be the most significant example of an urban byway, as most such areas run through rural regions. Portions are also part of the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.
The city purchased all the land immediately adjoining its lakes during its formative period, turning them into public parks rather than allowing them to be privately developed. Because of this, Minneapolis' lakes are accessible by the general public.
Heavy vehicles such as semi-trailer trucks and buses are largely banned from the byway, and the speed limit is 25 miles per hour throughout. Thanks to the low speed limit, motorcycle riders enjoy riding through the parkway system. Much of the asphalt paving along the road has a reddish tone so that drivers can more easily determine where to go upon reaching intersections.Hennepin Avenue Bridge
The Hennepin Avenue Bridge is the structure that carries Hennepin County State Aid Highway 52, Hennepin Avenue, across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Nicollet Island. Officially, it is the Father Louis Hennepin Bridge, in honor of the 17th-century explorer Louis Hennepin, who was the first European to see the Saint Anthony Falls, a short distance downriver. Two of the three previous structures have been suspension bridges, while a third—which existed nearly a century—was composed of steel arch spans. The original crossing, which opened as a toll bridge on January 23, 1855, is believed to have been the first permanent span across the Mississippi at any point. Other bridges were completed in 1876, 1891, and most recently 1990. Today, the bridge's main span is 190 metres (620 ft) in length, making it rather small by modern standards.Hennepin Island Hydroelectric Plant
The Hennepin Island Hydroelectric Plant also known as the St. Anthony Hydro Plant, sits on the site of early sawmills at St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The current structure was built for electric power in 1882. It is currently operated by Xcel Energy. The facility stands on the east bank of the Mississippi River near the Pillsbury "A" Mill at Saint Anthony Falls, the river's only waterfall, which powered the city's early sawmills, grist mills and other industry. Today, the hydroelectric plant is the only industrial draw on the falls' power. Five generating units produce 2.4 or 2.5 megawatts each for a total of 12 megawatts.Xcel Energy renewed its license which was authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March 2004. One condition of the license is the creation of a recreation area to provide the public with access to the plant and interpret its part in the evolution of St. Anthony Falls. A walkway now crosses in front of the building, leading to a bridge across the spillway separating the plant from Hennepin Island. A portion of the island overlooking the falls has been made into Water Power Park, allowing the closest possible approaches to the falls. In 2008, Xcel collaborated with the University of Minnesota's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory on a new Outdoor StreamLab which improves two existing flood bypass channels to study the site's ecology and hydrology.The plant is one of 85 contributing properties of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District which is on the National Register of Historic Places.Crown Hydro, LLC, has proposed a second hydro plant for the falls, to be built on the opposite bank of the Mississippi next to the Stone Arch Bridge.History of Minnesota
The history of the U.S. state of Minnesota is shaped by its original Native American residents, European exploration and settlement, and the emergence of industries made possible by the state's natural resources. Minnesota achieved prominence through fur trading, logging, and farming, and later through railroads, and iron mining. While those industries remain important, the state's economy is now driven by banking, computers, and health care.
The earliest known settlers followed herds of large game to the region during the last glacial period. They preceded the Anishinaabe, the Dakota, and other Native American inhabitants. Fur traders from France arrived during the 17th century. Europeans moving west during the 19th century, drove out most of the Native Americans. Fort Snelling, built to protect United States territorial interests, brought early settlers to the area. Early settlers used Saint Anthony Falls for powering sawmills in the area that became Minneapolis, while others settled downriver in the area that became Saint Paul.
Minnesota gained legal existence as the Minnesota Territory in 1849, and became the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858. After the upheaval of the American Civil War and the Dakota War of 1862, the state's economy started to develop when natural resources were tapped for logging and farming. Railroads attracted immigrants, established the farm economy, and brought goods to market. The power provided by St. Anthony Falls spurred the growth of Minneapolis, and the innovative milling methods gave it the title of the "milling capital of the world".
New industry came from iron ore, discovered in the north, mined relatively easily from open pits, and shipped to Great Lakes steel mills from the ports at Duluth and Two Harbors. Economic development and social changes led to an expanded role for state government and a population shift from rural areas to cities. The Great Depression brought layoffs in mining and tension in labor relations but New Deal programs helped the state. After World War II, Minnesota became known for technology, fueled by early computer companies Sperry Rand, Control Data and Cray. The Twin Cities also became a regional center for the arts with cultural institutions such as the Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, and the Walker Art Center.I-35W Mississippi River bridge
The I-35W Mississippi River bridge (officially known as Bridge 9340) was an eight-lane, steel truss arch bridge that carried Interstate 35W across the Saint Anthony Falls of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. It had a catastrophic failure during the evening rush hour on August 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The bridge opened in 1967 and was Minnesota's third busiest, carrying 140,000 vehicles daily. The NTSB cited a design flaw as the likely cause of the collapse, noting that a too-thin gusset plate ripped along a line of rivets, and additional weight on the bridge at the time contributed to the catastrophic failure.Help came immediately from mutual aid in the seven-county Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area and emergency response personnel, charities, and volunteers. Within a few days of the collapse, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) planned its replacement with the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. Construction was completed rapidly, and it opened on September 18, 2008.I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge
The I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge crosses the Saint Anthony Falls of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the U.S., carrying north-south traffic on Interstate Highway 35W. The ten-lane bridge replaced the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, which collapsed on August 1, 2007. It was planned and is maintained by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT). The planning, design, and construction processes were completed more quickly than normal because Interstate 35W is a critical artery for commuters and truck freight. The bridge opened September 18, 2008, well ahead of the original goal of December 24.Interstate 35W
Interstate 35W may refer to:
Interstate 35W (Texas), an 85-mile (137 km) Interstate highway serving Fort Worth, Texas, and its suburbs
Interstate 35W (Minnesota), a 42-mile (68 km) Interstate highway serving Minneapolis, Minnesota, and its suburbs
The I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed on August 1, 2007
The I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, its replacement
Interstate 135 in Kansas, which was designated as Interstate 35W until 1976List of contributing properties in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District
The following are the 85 contributing properties in the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. About 56 still exist. The district's archaeological record is considered to be one of the most-endangered historic sites in Minnesota.Michel Aco
Michel Aco (fl. 1680–1702, also known as Michel Accault) was a French explorer who, along with René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and Father Louis Hennepin, explored the Mississippi River in 1679. Aco became La Salle's lieutenant because of his knowledge of Native American languages and his abilities as an explorer. When the party reached the Illinois River; Aco, Hennepin and another man were sent to explore the upper Mississippi. During their exploration, they became the first Europeans to see Carver's Cave and Saint Anthony Falls. They were later captured by Sioux Indians and held until the influence of Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut won their release. He was brought to the mouth of the Wisconsin River and went on to explore the Wisconsin River, the Fox River down to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Mackinac Island, Michigan, and finally, in 1681, to Montreal. After his exploring days were over, Aco settled in Illinois and became a trader. He married Aramepinchieue, the daughter of a Kaskaskia chief in 1693, and had two children with her.Mill City Museum
Mill City Museum is a Minnesota Historical Society museum in Minneapolis. It opened in 2003 built in the ruins of the Washburn "A" Mill next to Mill Ruins Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. The museum focuses on the founding and growth of Minneapolis, especially flour milling and the other industries that used hydropower from Saint Anthony Falls.
The mill complex, dating from the 1870s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and within the National Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.Mill Ruins Park
Mill Ruins Park is a park in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, standing on the west side of Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. The park interprets the history of flour milling in Minneapolis and shows the ruins of several flour mills that were abandoned.
The park is the result of an archaeological study of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In 1983, a project was being considered to extend West River Parkway along the west side of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. Scott Anfinson, then the municipal county highway archaeologist for the Minnesota Historical Society, developed a plan to assess archaeological sites along the riverfront. A number of test excavations along the route revealed a wide variety of sites containing items of interest. In the Bassett's Creek area, for example, the foundations of two sawmills and the remains of a railroad roundhouse were found, while near Hennepin Avenue, the investigation found the footings of the Great Northern Railway Union Depot and the tower bases of the first and second Hennepin Avenue Bridges. In the milling district, archaeologists found clues suggesting that there were still extensive remains of the foundations of the mills and waterpower system.The first round of archaeological surveys in the 1980s was intended to save the ruins from destruction as a result of road construction projects. Later, in the 1990s, the focus shifted from environmental impact assessment to exposing ruins for their interpretive value. As the ruins were made visible to the public, the goal was to create assets for education, tourism, and commercial development. The excavations for Mill Ruins Park began in 1998 and continued through 2001. The process also involved stabilizing the remains of the Washburn "A" Mill, which had burned in 1991. The Washburn "A" Mill became part of the Mill City Museum.Along with the remains of several flour mills and other industrial buildings, the park also contains two stone piers and several iron girder piers that held a trestle for the Minneapolis Eastern Railroad. The tailraces from the waterpower canal are also clearly visible, and the water flow has been restored through the canal. Signs posted along the walkways interpret the ruins and the history of the area.National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics
The National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics, or NCED, is an NSF Science and Technology Center- a collaborative
partnership among educational, research, and public/private entities that aims to create new knowledge of significant benefit to society.
Its mission is to understand the dynamics of the coupled processes that shape the Earth’s surface—physical, biological, geochemical, and anthropogenic—and how they will respond to climate, land use, and management change. NCED is headquartered at the University of Minnesota's Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory.Nicollet Island
Nicollet Island is an island in the Mississippi River just north of Saint Anthony Falls in central Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to the United States Census Bureau the island has a land area of 194,407 square metres (0.075 sq mi) and a 2000 census population of 144 persons. The island makes up a large part of the city-designated Nicollet Island/East Bank neighborhood. The island is named for cartographer Joseph Nicollet, who mapped the Upper Mississippi in the 1830s.The island lies in the middle of the Mississippi, crossed by the Hennepin Avenue Bridge connecting Downtown and Northeast Minneapolis. The island is so near to Saint Anthony Falls that if the northward movement of the falls had not been stopped in the late 19th century, the island would no longer exist. In the early 19th century Nicollet Island was one of six islands near the falls, but all the others have been destroyed or joined to the east bank.The island was the site of the first bridge across the Mississippi River, opened in 1855, on the site of the present Hennepin Avenue Bridge. It is part of Saint Anthony Falls Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Platteville Limestone
The Platteville Limestone is the Ordovician limestone formation in the sedimentary sequence characteristic of the upper Midwestern United States. It overlies the thin Glenwood Shale, which overlies the thick Saint Peter Sandstone. It is shot through with dolomitic mottles in an anastomose pattern; this dolotimization occurred after deposition but prior to the development of joints in the rock.This difficult-to-erode unit forms the cap of Saint Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River bluffs in most of the Twin Cities area. Sea life was abundant during the Ordovician Period and a large number of marine fossils including corals, bryozoans, brachiopods, clams, snails, cephalopods, and trilobites can be found in the limestone sediments at several areas in the Twin Cities and along the Mississippi River at Minnehaha Falls park and elsewhere.Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory
The Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory (former name: Saint Anthony Falls Hydraulic Laboratory), or SAFL, is a research laboratory situated on Hennepin Island in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. Its primary research is in "Engineering, Environmental, Biological, and Geophysical Fluid Mechanics". It is affiliated with the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering. Research is conducted by graduate students and faculty alike using the 16,000 square feet of research space and 24 different specialized facilities.
The laboratory is unique in that its location next to Saint Anthony Falls allows it to use the hydraulic head from the waterfall to provide water for many of the experiments.
The experiments performed at the laboratory are varied, and may include:
Contract civil and environmental engineering work, such as dam construction and removal
Understanding river system dynamics
Work with oil exploration to characterize deposits in deltaic systems
Work to understand the interactions between fluid flow and the ecology of rivers
Work to understand cavitation in fluids in order to build better propellersThe Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory is also the headquarters of the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.St. Anthony Falls Bridge
St. Anthony Falls Bridge may refer to several bridges that cross the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis:
Third Avenue Bridge (Minneapolis)
I-35W Mississippi River bridge, and its replacement, I-35W Saint Anthony Falls BridgeThe Stone Arch Bridge (Minneapolis) is between these, at the falls, but has not had that name.Stone Arch Bridge (Minneapolis)
The Stone Arch Bridge is a former railroad bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Saint Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the only arched bridge made of stone on the entire length of the Mississippi River. It is the second oldest next to Eads Bridge. The bridge was built to connect the railway system to the new Union Depot, which at that time was planned to be built between Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Avenue. The bridge was completed in 1883, costing $650,000 at the time ($17.5 million today). 117 Portland Avenue is the general address of the historic complex.
Located between the 3rd Avenue Bridge and the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, the Stone Arch Bridge was built in 1883 by railroad tycoon James J. Hill for his Great Northern Railway, and accessed the former passenger station located about a mile to the west, on the west bank of the river.
For a time, the bridge was dubbed "Hill's Folly" until the value of Hill's new bridge as a passenger rail link became evident.The structure is now used as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. It is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as a part of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District, (District #71000438).William de la Barre
William de la Barre (April 15, 1849 in Vienna – March 24, 1936 in Minneapolis) was an Austrian-born civil engineer who developed a new process for milling wheat into flour, using energy-saving steel rollers at the Washburn-Crosby Mills (now known as General Mills, Inc.) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and later served as chief engineer for the first hydroelectric power station built in the United States, at Saint Anthony Falls, also in Minneapolis.
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