River Story: Watching the River Flow

Hawk with Minneapolis skyline

                       (thinking Bob Dylan)

                  slightly above the tree tops
                   six floors from the street
              the perfect place to be and see


emerald city—Oz, Judy Garland—glowing on the
banks of the river; blue glass and limestone, gleaming
iron; vintage buildings, latest high towers; the Federal
Reserve Bank in the old warehouse district, its curved
façade and clock tower nodding to the water and a
partner clock on the Old Milwaukee Train Depot; art
deco granite and stone Post Office standing as a solid
sentinel to any wavy action; jagged rocky ruins of
Mill City mixing with sleek modern-day sculptures of
Gold Medal Park; new inky Guthrie Theater, endless
bridge jutting out; the Steam Plant, four towering dark
stacks spouting pallid plumes; Water Power Park with
views of the falls; historic Main Street’s theater and
cafes; the University’s Boathouse and Weisman
Museum—flashing steel sheets abstracting waterfalls,
a fish; and running through it all

            THE  M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I P-P-I  RIVER

‘Ol Man, Old Blue, Gathering of Waters, Big Muddy,
It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud,
Misi-ziibi or Great Big River or The Father of Waters
by the Ojibwe Indians, the name de la Salle placed on
the 1695 map of the area; about ten thousand years old;
second longest river in North America; beginning as a
narrow stream of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota,
rolling on deep and wide through the center of our
country—ten states—running through Minneapolis,
St. Paul—the Twin Cities the biggest community on its
banks—Quad Cities, St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge
and New Orleans emptying into the Gulf of Mexico;
people from these places also spell out its name,
M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Everyone chants its refrain,
It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud;
in day or moon light—Showboat, Moon River—true
blue water sparkles silver in the sun, turns steely grey
by clouds or rain or snow, while black water on a
dark night moves murkily, mysteriously; limbs, some-
times whole trees, caught in low water or on shores,
appear weirdly other-worldly; Mark Twain, America’s
storyteller, gave us Huck Finn and his friend Jim who
fear the danger but love the freedom of the river—
had they rafted this far north, they might have braved

            ST. ANTHONY FALLS

churning, cascading, catapulting, the equivalent of
three semi-trailers full of water pouring over the apron
every second; Dakota Indians calling it curling or a
whirlpool; leading up to it, white frothy caps eclipse
the blue fluid waters, an excitement, energy, élan,
mesmerizing—witness the whirring of hovering
helicopters, police cars with whirling screaming tops
careen to a stop, officers leaping out, probing the depths;
alongside the sounding, pounding, powering, former
powdering operation—Minneapolis once the Flour
Milling Capital of the World—stands the residual lock
and dam, closed now—the threat of invasive carp—
missing large barges, the Queen paddleboat—but
anyone, anytime, can look up to

            THE BRIDGES

replacing the dramatically fatally collapsed, the new
I-35W of white concrete, lit up at night in green or
purple for Prince, or red, white and blue; beloved
iconic Stone Arch, lighted underneath, first built for
trains now accommodating tons of human traffic; S-
curved graceful Third Avenue, its huge arches mirrored
in the water—brilliant fireworks bursting above it for
4th of July and Aquatennial fêtes; strikingly suspended
Father Louis Hennepin Avenue, the first bridge built
across the Mississippi, redone using white and green
lights and suspension cables for show; King Iron’s
1887 iron-trussed Merriam Street connecting to


famous park with an amphitheater and pavilion—
countless concerts and weddings; limestone Inn
with blue decks and awnings, jaunty window boxes;
playing fields of De La Salle High School—shouts,
calls; trains speeding past—clickety-clacks, hoots,
whistles; quiet village beyond of Victorian houses,
waterside paths; beyond that, Boom Island Park, the
usual end of river walks; a port, a dock, a haven for
the songs of

            THE FAUNA

swimming ducks, flying geese; bald eagles—rising
about the same time every morning, as if there’s a
heavenly request to release the eagle; herons, still
looking prehistoric but diminutive now in the broad
expanse of air; caws of murders and murders of
crows—thousands in the winter flying from all
directions, circling and circling, finally settling on
branches of trees, taking flight again, ascending
a wave, circling and circling—an amazing sight;
cormorants and peregrine falcons looping the falls
—if you’re lucky to spot them; vultures; yellow-
bellied warblers teaching English sparrows on our
decks to eat spiders; a baby hawk hanging out on
the railing one day, posing for pictures, taking in
airplanes, but eyes swiveling at helicopters close by,
seems to be searching

            THE FLORA

grasses, sedges, shrubs; in spring, the smell of shoots
developing in damp soil beside melting water can be
musty, funky—can almost taste it—sometimes through
a strong wind, can even smell hints of fertilizing manure;
in summer, a sweet foliage scent emanates from ferns of
all kinds, cattails, reeds on shores, water lilies, algae,
duckweed drifting on the surface, mosses clinging to
rocks, damselflies dancing on anemones; a hazy skyline
might develop—smoke from western wildfires—wafts
held by trees of all seasons—evergreens, ash, burr oak,
maple, cottonwood—all growing around

            LIGHTS AT NIGHT

glimmering from the river on the clocks and bridges;
a stellar halo on the Capella Tower, green rings around
others; older lower Foshay’s name; a golden church
peeking through the skyscrapers; red lights on top of
Cedar-Riverside, the Somali capital of America, Little
top floors of Carlyle condos; Post Office
windows; all of Wells Fargo all through the night; the
Vikings Stadium, its own giant sign, great splashes of
colored ships; the Theater’s yellow box and undulating
vibrant marquees; red Gold Medal Flour topping Mill
Ruins and Museum—lighted blue benches in the Park;
red North / white Star Blankets; signature red and white
Twins Stadium with twinkling fireworks; landmark
water tank wrapped in changing colors; red Pillsbury’s
Best Flour and St. Anthony Main—blue waves under
its name; the A-Mill Artist Lofts whitened to a Greek
temple; famous Grain Belt Beer bottle cap popping
intense hues; our own Riverplace, dark green letters
facing us, glittering snow to the world; and more sway-
ing in the water—white, bright—shining magically


suns, clouds, rain, rainbows, sleet, slush, snow, sunsets, moons;
walkers, joggers, painters, photographers, kids, grownups, pets;
bikes, cars, horse-drawn buggies, pedaling beer carts, segways;

                      a wondrous show
                   watching the river flow.

by Marge Barrett
October 2018

Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 20 - 9:30 AM to Noon
West River Parkway and 36th Street/44th Street, Minneapolis
Applications due Friday, May 3 by 5 p.m.
Virtual and in-person
Wednesday, May 8, 2024 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area