Monday, July 7, 2014

Minnehaha Falls

 by Stacy Monson

Minnesota is known for a lot of things (like lots of lakes, and mammoth mosquitoes) but major waterfalls isn't one of them. However! With record rainfall this June, our hallowed falls right in Minneapolis has become THE place to visit.

Photos by Chris Adler-
Minnehaha Falls is always an attraction to locals and visitors alike, during every season. During the spring, the water runs fast and furious as the snow melts. Summer heat sends people there to enjoy the cool mist and a shaded walk along the creek to the Mississippi. Fall colors create a breathtaking backdrop to the falls. And below zero temperatures stop the water mid-fall in an amazing natural ice sculpture.

Water that runs over the falls starts 22 miles west at Lake Minnetonka. Minnehaha Creek runs through various suburbs, then through South Minneapolis before leaping over the falls and traveling another mile to join the Mississippi River.

The name is often translated to Laughing Waters; however, the actual translation is far less fun - basically "waterfall falls." Hmm. I think I'll stick to the Laughing Waters idea (which came from Mary Eastman's book Dahcotah that was published in 1849). The Dakota called Minnehaha Creek "Wakpa Cistinna," which means "Little River."

There have been years when water barely trickled over the falls, hardly enough to wet the basin. It was sad to see, actually. Without the usual sound of rushing water, the wooded area was eerily quiet. Then there are years like this year. The sound is deafening, the spray more like a shower than a mist. People like to wade in the water as it heads toward the Mississippi; however, this year a child was actually swept away by the current. A passerby saw what was happening, ran ahead of the child, then jumped in and pulled him to safety.

With over 26 inches of rain this month, Minnehaha Falls has become even more of an attraction for hikers, photographers, families, picnickers, and the just plain curious. Check out this video to see the falls in action.

Minnehaha Park Pavillion
President Obama paid the area a visit on June 26 of this year and got quite a show. When President Lyndon Johnson visited 50 years ago, a drought made it necessary to open fire hydrants to create
enough water to go over the falls!

This fun video by Francis Sothy, shot from a quad-copter in mid-June, gives a neat view of the whole area. And then there are the thrill seekers who decide to kayak over the falls. Not something the average kayaker should try.

It may not have the grandeur of Niagara, but we love our Minnehaha Falls.


  1. I love this! Thanks for sharing about it, Stacy. Might have to take a trip over there soon.

  2. What a fun place! Thanks for sharing a bit of the history, and for writing such an engaging plug for Minnehaha Falls. I just like to say it, over and over :)


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