Minnehaha Falls, long an iconic image of Minneapolis, was the first Minnesota State Park and one of the first state parks in the nation. It is often a stop on the itinerary of tourists and has been since before Henry Longfellow made the falls famous around the world with his epic poem Song of Hiawatha in 1855.
The Falls has been the subject of literature, music, art, political wrangling, moral haranguing, and freeway finagling. Its history is replete with wild animals, soldiers, ski jumpers, pony riders, lion tamers, book borrowers, shysters, dog walkers, concert goers, picnickers, pickpockets, auto tourists, limestone quarriers, and even (gasp!) Swedes.
Investigate how a misinterpreted park came to be a resort for all these people, how Minneapolis acquired the falls for a park and expanded city boundaries to include it, how bridges and pavilions came and went, how the falls themselves have changed and to what lengths the city has gone to ensure that water continuously flows over the much-changed limestone ledge at the center of it all.
We’ll walk about 1.5 miles and will include an optional hike down the steps to the creek below the falls. The tour is not ADA accessible.
The tour guide is David Smith. who has been a Minneapolis resident for 35 years. He is the author of a history of the Minneapolis park system, City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks, as well as historical profiles of individual Minneapolis parks for the website of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, minneapolisparks.org. Dave also writes about parks at his own website, minneapolisparkhistory.com. He is presently writing a history of Minnehaha Falls and a biography of landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland.