|WATER POWER PARK||(click here for directions and parking)|
|At St. Anthony Falls on the Missippi River in Downtown Minneapolis|
The newest addition to the Minneapolis Riverfront DistrictNever before has the general public been able to walk on this piece of land and experience the power of the mighty Mississippi River as it flows over St. Anthony Falls. You feel the power of the river, the spray from the falls as you stand on one of the three overlooks with the skyline of downtown Minneapolis in the back round.
Opening Mid June 2007
Overlooking St. Anthony Falls located on the upper portion of Father Hennepin Island on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis Minnesota. Water Power Park is accessible from Main Street just across from St. Anthony Main. Park in the St. Anthony Falls Ramp and take the connecting tunnel to Main St. and you will find yourself just across the street from Water Power Park.
This Park created by Xcel Energy is a condition of its license renewal by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Hennepin Island Hydro Electric Plant also known as the St. Anthony Hydro Plant. 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 this recreation area to provide the public with exterior viewing 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. By 2008, Xcel will collaborate with the University of Minnesota on a new outdoor St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and improve two existing flood bypass.
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. The plant is one of 85 contributing properties of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Saint Anthony Falls has to be the one most interesting parts of the great Mississippi river. Here, the forces of nature meet the forces of man every day in a drama that has resulted in Minneapolis rising from a remote wilderness post to being one of the most important cities in the United States in a matter of only a few years.
The falls results from the geography of the land between the Twin Cities. The ground is covered with a thin layer of rock covering a deep layer of soft sandstone. The water cannot cut the rock, but it does wear away the sandstone. Once the rock layer is under cut, it falls into the river, causing the cusp of the falls to slowly migrate north. 10,000 years ago, the falls was down near the MSP Airport. When Father Hennepin discovered the falls, it was near the University, and was over 100 feet tall.
Prior to the steam engine and electric motor becoming common, industry depended on water power. Saint Anthony falls was one of the best natural sources of water power in the nation, featuring nearly 50,000 horsepower of energy. As a result, the water was channeled into canals and routed to mills as far as four blocks away from the river. The milling industry went from zero to world class in the late 1800's. Just as the steam engine and electric motor came on the scene, allowing mills to locate anywhere, the falls was converted to hydro power.
This human activity caused significant damage to the falls. While the falls once moved a foot each year, the falls was moving 10 to 20 feet a year at its peak. Then a diversion tunnel (Eastman Tunnel 1869) collapsed, and the falls and Hennepin Island nearly crumbled into the resulting whirlpool. Since the unique geography that created the falls ends just north of downtown Minneapolis, allowing the falls to migrate much further north would mean that the falls would peter out into pile of rock and an impassible rapids.
The result is that the US Army Corps of Engineering moved in to stabilize the falls (Between 1876 and 1880). They built a large apron to cap the rock layer and built a large spillway for the main channel to prevent further erosion which has concrete teeth at the bottom, called grinders, to break up any debris that comes over the falls and to calm the flow of water and stabilized the area. A secondary falls of about 10 feet is just upstream under the Third Ave Bridge. Later, the boat lock was installed as part of the 9-foot navigation channel, and the mill diversion channels were blocked off. That is what we see today. We have lost the natural fall of water over a rock ledge, but we have preserved the falls where it is for generations to come.
• Structure: Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam • Location: River Mile 853.9 • Dam Width: 1,575 Feet Overall, 416 Foot Longest Structure • River Elevation (Pool): 799 Feet. • River Elevation (Outflow): 750 Feet • Water Fall: 49 Feet • Date Opened: September 1963