Crowds flock to rare Mississippi River drawdown in Minneapolis

Rocks are exposed under a bridge.
The bottom of the Mississippi River is exposed Tuesday evening after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered the water level below St. Anthony Falls to inspect locks in the area earlier this week.
Erika Nelson

Thousands of people have been gathering at the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis during a rare drawdown of the pool just below St. Anthony Falls.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from above one of its Minneapolis dams to inspect the structures and locks nearby. Although the locks are not in service, engineers want to examine the infrastructure usually underwater.

The river has dropped about a dozen feet, leaving a large part of the bottom of the river exposed near Father Hennepin Bluff Park and below the Stone Arch Bridge. Thousands of visitors have been climbing down the river bank to see the exposed bridge footings, the exposed foot of St. Anthony Falls and historic remains of old river structures normally covered by the river.

Much of the ground is dry, although the footing is precarious in many places, and debris dropped in the river remains scattered through the area. Access to the river is steep and hazardous, although there are stairs leading to the area in front of the Pillsbury A Mill on Main Street. Much of the area is also visible from above, on the Stone Arch Bridge.

“The Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam will be open to the public for viewing the river during this event,” the Corps says. “There will be knowledgeable park rangers and volunteers to help interpret the river and answer questions.”

The lock and dam wall will be open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The river is expected to remain low until the Corps finishes inspections and refills the pool later this week.

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