This lock helped build Minneapolis. Now it's closing.

St. Anthony Lock and Dam
The Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis.
Ben Erickson / St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

The Upper St. Anthony Falls lock, which began passing ships up and down the Mississippi River in 1963, will close in June.

The closing is part of an effort to keep invasive carp from spreading into Minnesota's northern waters, including lakes Itasca, Bemidji and Mille Lacs.

The dams and locks along the Mississippi have been crucial to Minneapolis and St. Paul for more than 100 years. John Anfinson, superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, shared these facts about the lock's history with MPR News' Cathy Wurzer.

Minneapolis' first lock and dam didn't last long.

As soon as the Meeker Dam was built in 1907, people were lobbying for it to be torn down.

As hydroelectric power rose to prominence, Minneapolis and St. Paul leaders wanted to harness the power of the Mississippi. The Meeker Dam was too low to provide hydroelectric power, so it was closed and demolished in 1912.

The remnants are still visible when the water is low.

The lock was going to close, with or without invasive carp.

Anfinson said the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock has a long history of not being economically successful.

"Asian carp was the trigger, not the cause," Anfinson said. "It was coming. It was just looking for the right time, I think."

Minneapolis will no longer be the head of navigation.

Over 100 years ago, Minneapolis and St. Paul were competing over which city would be the head of navigation, the farthest point north that boats can travel.

"People 100 years ago would be aghast if they knew Minneapolis was giving up on being the head of navigation," Anfinson said.

But now Minneapolis can engage with the river in a new way, says Anfinson. "People in north Minneapolis have been cut off from the river for a long time," he said.

"By opening up the upper harbor terminal — it's a 47-acre site — creates a chance for parks, maybe businesses and access to that part of the river. This is a different vision for Minneapolis."

Minneapolis is losing some spectacular views.

The visitor center at the lock and dam will also be closing, which means Minneapolis will no longer have access to what Anfinson describes as spectacular views of the falls.

But he hopes it's only temporary. He says the city, park board, National Park Service and the Minnesota Historical Society are interested in partnering to reopen the lock (and its views) to tourists.

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