In the beginning…Minnehaha Creek

The source of Minnehaha Creek, the slender sapphire thread that winds its way through Minneapolis, is Lake Minnetonka. The first photo is taken at the landing on the creek as it exits Minnetonka’s Gray’s Bay. A dam at the outlet controls the lake’s water level. Tom and I have canoed the creek’s lower reaches to a take-out point just above the falls, but had never been on the upper segment. Last Tuesday when the creek flow measured above 100 cubic feet per second (perfect! too high and paddlers barely clear some bridges; too low and canoes scrape bottom with maddening frequency), we strapped the Old Towne to the car and headed out.

We paddled 13 miles in just under four hours, almost entirely through seemingly undeveloped watershed (Oh, how deceiving!) Minnehaha carried our canoe past the communities of Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park (photo 2)and western Edina (photo 3, just before the megahouses), past stands of cattails, floodplains with soft maples and ash, and distant hillocks with remnants of oak savannah. No doubt due to a rookery on Lake Minnetonka, the upper reaches of the creek had an abundance of leggy great blue herons.

In St. Louis Park, Methodist Hospital is situated on the creek. Hospital grounds had wide buffer strips extending nearly to the building. Some rooms must have healing views of the lovely waterway.

Sadly, as we approached the take-out point in Edina, we passed dozens of palatial homes with emerald carpet-lawns running directly to the creek’s edge. Very few had buffer strips protecting the creek that enhances the owners’ property values. Water ponds behind the historic dam in Edina and water quality along this stretch of pseudo-mansions was the poorest– large mats of blue-green algae, thick aquatic plant growth marring what had been clear, clean water. So many people along Minnehaha Creek care so diligently for it that it’s a shame these wealthy few aren’t more enlightened.

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