You know you’re in Minnesota when you find yourself at the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway. Overlooking the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Park is one of Minneapolis’s oldest and most popular parks. Minnehaha Falls, the park’s centerpiece, became a tourist destination after the publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha” in 1855.
Longfellow never visited the falls in person and there’s not much fact in the poem; the real Hiawatha lived in New England. Nonetheless,
“Hiawatha” became America’s most widely read poem of the nineteenth century, spreading the fame of Minnehaha Falls and the uppermost regions of the Mississippi and the “shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big Sea waters.”
The falls are on Minnehaha Creek which flows from Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis, through the city and on into the Mississippi River. By late summer they are often reduced to a trickle. In fact, one year (almost 50 years to the day) President Lyndon Johnson was scheduled to view the falls on a visit to Minneapolis, but they were almost bone dry. In order to create something worth seeing, the city had to open many fire hydrants, upstream and out of sight, to feed water to the creek.”
That’s not the case this year. June brought the all-time largest rainfall in Minnesota, which created new bodies of water and raised the level of the Great Lakes. That meant little Minnehaha Falls became a raging torrent and it lured professional kayaker Hunt Jennings to give it a go. Over the falls he went to the surprise of many bystanders–and he emerged in one piece.
I don’t suggest kayaking over the falls, but if you visit the park, a safer bet would be to try out Sea Salt Eatery for fish tacos and other goodies amidst the beauty of the park.