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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Minneapolis in Hennepin County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Roar of Waterfall, Rush of Rapids

 
 
Roar of Waterfall, Rush of Rapids marker image. Click for full size.
By McGhiever, June 11, 2020
1. Roar of Waterfall, Rush of Rapids marker
Inscription.  Standing near here at the river's edge 5000 years ago, you would have felt the spray and heard the thunder of a spectacular waterfall. If you returned once every 500 years you would have seen the waterfall carving the Mississippi River's only true gorge. With each visit the waterfall would be located further upstream, and smaller in size. The thundering cataract must have awed families of pre-historic bison hunters a few thousand years ago, just as it has generations of people since. At its foot, the falls left rushing rapids splashing around islands alive with birdsong and wildlife.

The place where we encamped last night needed no embellishments to render it romantic in the highest degree . . . a few yards below us a beautiful cascade of fine spring water, pouring down from a high precipice about one hundred feet high. On our left was the Mississippi hurrying through its channel with great velocity, and . . . above us . . . was the majestic cataract of the Falls of St. Anthony. The murmuring of the cascade, the roaring of the river, and the thunder of the cataract, all contributed to make the scene the most interesting and
Marker on kiosk between biking and walking paths image. Click for full size.
By McGhiever, June 11, 2020
2. Marker on kiosk between biking and walking paths
magnificent of any I ever before witnessed.

-Written of the Mississippi River Gorge by Stephen Long in his book Skiff Voyage to the Falls of St. Anthony in 1817

The waterfall that created the river gorge we see today was the remnant of a much greater falls that once roared beside the current site of downtown St. Paul, and was the precursor of modern day St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. Year after year the waterfall cut a path through layers of sedimentary bedrock. As soft, underlying sandstone eroded beneath the force of falling water, the limestone caprock was undermined, and chunk after chunk fell into the river below. Slowly the Mississippi's only waterfall receded upstream, and created the gorge.

The rate of the waterfall erosion in the gorge was first calculated by geologist Newton H. Winchell in the late 1800s. Geologists today say that his estimates were quite accurate.

A Great Rapids Becomes "Pool #1"
Dakota Indians and European trappers who paused along the gorge in spring travels two centuries ago gazed at a river dancing with foam and spray around green islands, and listened to the roar of the river's most powerful rapids. Giant sturgeon, catfish, and paddlefish sought out the rapids. Eagles eyed the head of the rapids for a ready meal.

By the 20th century economic ambitions drove people to construct

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a new vision for the river. The river's first lock and dam rose to span the river gorge just below the former Meeker Island (north of present day Lake Street Bridge) in 1907. But it was short-lived. The larger "Lock & Dam #1", completed in 1917, flooded the gorge to accommodate barges and generate hydro-electricity. The numerous islands once seen in the gorge were flooded or dredged away. "Pool #1" had replaced the great rapids of the gorge.

Caption: 1887 Bosse map of the river gorge from downtown Minneapolis to Fort Snelling, showing numerous islands.
Caption: Some of the many islands in the gorge as viewed from the "Soldier's Home", 1905
Caption: Lock and Dam #1, (aka "Ford Dam"), ca. 1923

Learn More . . .
Many nearby places and facilities feature stories of the Mississippi River Gorge and its geological past. Explore the Science Museum of Minnesota's Mississippi River Gallery, or the National Park Service's Mississippi River Visitor Center, also in the Science Museum in St. Paul. Visit Lock & Dam #1 at West River Parkway and Godfrey Parkway, and see St. Anthony Falls, and Locks & Dams, downtown Minneapolis. Go to Minnehaha Falls to observe the same geological process that formed the Mississippi Gorge.
 
Erected 2004 by Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Longfellow Community Council.
 
Topics. This historical

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marker is listed in these topic lists: EnvironmentIndustry & CommerceNative AmericansWaterways & Vessels.
 
Location. 44° 57.018′ N, 93° 12.375′ W. Marker is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Hennepin County. Marker is on West River Parkway 0.1 miles north of Lake Street, on the right when traveling north. Marker is one panel of a Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway kiosk situated where the bike and walking paths split north of Lake Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2935 W River Pkwy, Minneapolis MN 55406, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mississippi River (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sri Chinmoy Peace Bridge (about 800 feet away); Sesquicentennial Trees (approx. ¼ mile away); Meeker Island Lock and Dam Historic Site (approx. ¼ mile away); Bridging the Mississippi (approx. half a mile away); The Red River Ox Cart Trail (approx. 0.7 miles away); Shadow Falls (approx. ¾ mile away); Christ Church Lutheran (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Minneapolis.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 3, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 25, 2020, by McGhiever of St Paul, Minnesota. This page has been viewed 31 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 25, 2020, by McGhiever of St Paul, Minnesota. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.
 
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photo of the Pool #! area. • Can you help?
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Mar. 3, 2021