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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

River restoration: Should we bring back Mississippi's roaring white-water rapids?

"For thousands of years, the Twin Cities had a white-water rapids roaring through it, tumbling and roiling over and around enormous limestone chunks that still litter the Mississippi River's floor for eight miles from the St. Anthony Falls dam all the way down to Ft. Snelling.

If it were restored to its natural state, the "gorge" would be a kayaking and recreational wonder with hundreds of acres of new parkland, a photographer's delight and a sportsman's paradise. Scores of eagles would nest there, drawn by all the fish that would mass in oxygen-rich water and spawn in gravel beds under swirling eddies."
A recent article by Ron Way in the Minneapolis Post got my whiskers twitching in excitement. A small but growing group of restoration advocates in Minneapolis are kindling the hope that the City's majestic rapids may one day roar again with the removal of the Army Corps of Engineers Lock and Dam #1.

It's a long shot. But not impossible. And the article, and accompanying video, make for a great geology lesson with mind-boggling facts like this:
It was 12,000 years ago that a 175-foot falls that rivaled Niagara was where downtown St. Paul is, with massive volumes of meltwater from glacial Lake Agassiz — at the time much larger than the present Great Lakes combined — filling the Minnesota River (then the River Warren) to the brim. The Mississippi was a mere trickling stream by comparison.
Go read the article, and take a little day-dreaming trip through the gorges of the Upper Mississippi river.

posted by the River Rat

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