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The Falls of Minnehaha flash and gleam

The Falls of Minnehaha flash and gleam

“Where the Falls of Minnehaha
Flash and gleam among the oak-trees,
Laugh and leap into the valley.”

Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis became well-known after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned these words in 1855 in Song of Hiawatha.  The “laughing waters” tumble 53 feet from a Platteville Limestone ledge as Minnehaha Creek nears the end of its 22-mile journey from Lake Minnetonka to the Mississippi River.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateLooking down from above the falls.

Czech composer Antonin Dvorak visited Minnehaha Falls in September of 1893, shortly after publication of his “New World” Symphony. It’s been reported that he lingered at the falls for over an hour, and was quite taken with the view. “It is so intensely beautiful that words cannot describe it,” he said. Having no paper available, the story goes that he wrote a musical theme in rough form on the cuff of his shirt, which later became the slow movement of his Sonatina in G major, opus 100.

Visitors today not only enjoy views from above the falls, but staircases take them down to the base, where a recently rebuilt pathway allows for an easy hike to the place where Minnehaha Creek flows into the Mississippi River.

I spent a couple of hours recently walking from the falls to the river with my camera.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateRecently improved walking path and erosion-controlled banks of Minnehaha Creek below the falls.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve Date

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve Date

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateLast year’s flooding gave rise to habitat-friendly walkways.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateBeavers are constantly working to alter the flow of the stream.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateMississippi River is visible past the foot bridge at the mouth of Minnehaha Creek.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateFishing below the Ford Bridge and Lock and Dam #1 at the mouth of the creek.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateMinnehaha Park has other attractions, such as Sea Salt Restaurant, which is only a few steps from the falls.

Minnehaha Park is one of the oldest parks in the celebrated Minneapolis Park system. While there’s much more to do there than gaze at the falls, the “laughing waters flashing and gleaming among the oak trees” remains the main attraction and a truly beautiful place to spend a couple of hours.

Minnehaha Falls
MinnPost photo by Steve DateThere’s no sign that says “Take photo here,” but there probably should be.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/03/2012 - 11:15 am.

    I haven’t been down there in 30 years

    and I had no idea there are beaver down there. Thanks for the photos.

  2. Submitted by Mona Smith on 05/03/2012 - 02:35 pm.

    Longfellow and the translation

    Lovely photos. I would like to suggest that the Falls were well known long before Longfellow though, and also share that the translation of Mnigaga may be closer to ‘curling waters’ than to ‘laughing waters.’

    As a Dakota traditional site in the metro, Minnehaha Falls is another place of power and healing that attracts a wide range of folks. Reminders of its beauty and appeal are appreciated.

    Thanks for the piece and your photos.

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 05/04/2012 - 07:35 am.

    Minnehaha Falls…been some time ago…

    It’s difficult to pass through these amazing photos of a place almost forgotten and remain silent..

    so I keep on ‘walking’ even as the water flows and a bird breaks the silence. Thank you.

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