Mississippi River Gorge
The Journal of Geography, 1902
The Mississippi River Gorge is a unique geological feature stretching from St. Anthony Falls to Fort Snelling. The 100-foot limestone bluffs are studded with natural springs and waterfalls, and sections of oak savanna, mixed hardwood, and floodplain forests. Near downtown St. Paul, the river opens up into a broad floodplain for its downstream course.
The last major advance of continental glaciers about 10,000 to 30,000 years ago shaped the layers of shale, Platteville Limestone and St. Peter Sandstone that were deposited more than 500 million years ago by inland seas. Sheets of glacial ice deposited layers of drift—pebbles, rocks, and sand—that comprise the soil underlying St. Paul.
About 13,000 years ago, Glacial River Warren flowed from the immense Glacial Lake Agassiz through the
Geologists have long been fascinated with the story of the movement of the ancient waterfall: from the river bend in downtown St. Paul, the falls worked their way upriver to Fort Snelling and the future confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The falls then stood 200 feet tall and were nearly a mile across. The falls next split in two; one branch ascended up the Minnesota River Valley for two miles until it reached a buried channel and disappeared. Present-day St. Anthony Falls ascended along the Mississippi Valley, traveling about eight miles during the next 10,000 years. When Father Hennepin visited and named the falls in 1680, they were about 3,000 feet south of their current position in Minneapolis.
Early explorers recorded their travels through the high bluffs of the gorge; in 1817 Colonel Stephen Long wrote the bluffs were decorated with Trees and shrubbery of various kinds. The Post Oak, Hickory, Walnut, Lynden, Sugar tree, White Birch and the American Box, also various evergreans, such as the Pine, Cedar, Juniper &c. added their embellishment to the scene. Amongst the shrubbery were the Prickly ash, Plumb & cherry tree, the goosberry, the Black and red raspberry, the Choak berry. Grape vine &c.
The gorge became the heart of the vision of Chicago landscape designer H.W.S. Cleveland. In 1883 he encouraged the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis to create a linked park system of boulevards. Cleveland praised the river banks "covered with a magnificent growth of trees and shrubbery, assuming all the picturesque forms which are incident to such growth in such a place, and which no art could imitate."
"From Fort Snelling Looking Up," Seth Eastman, 1846.
1. Mississippi River Gorge, 1895 (Mississippi River Commission)
2. Two views of the gorge, left 1896; right, 1902.
Cross-section of the gorge near Meeker Dam, 1910 U.S. Geological Survey
Erected by Saint Paul Department of Parks & Recreation, Federal Highway Commission, Great River Road Minnesota, America's Byways.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Environment • Exploration • Parks & Recreational Areas.
Location. 44° 55.37′ N, 93° 11.885′ W. Marker is in Saint Paul,
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hydro Electric Turbine (approx. 0.6 miles away); Wing Dams (approx. 0.6 miles away); Big Water / Stairway of Water (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Lock and Dam No. 1 Story (approx. 0.6 miles away); 1–Main Entrance Minnehaha Lower Glen (approx. ¾ mile away); 3 – Master Map (approx. ¾ mile away); Geology of Minnesota (approx. ¾ mile away); President Lyndon B. Johnson (approx. 0.8 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on October 12, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 4, 2020, by McGhiever of St Paul, Minnesota. This page has been viewed 43 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 4, 2020, by McGhiever of St Paul, Minnesota. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.