More about the Mississippi River: Anoka to Fort Snelling

Mississippi River in Minneapolis

Water characteristics - check the river level report.
The river is silty and, in places, contaminated with sewage and industrial chemicals. Unless it is extensively treated, the water is undrinkable. Spring runoff normally brings the river to its highest flow of the year which is cold, fast and dangerous. The width of the river is from less than one-tenth mile above Anoka to more than a half mile near the Coon Rapids and Ford dams.

Landscape - This stretch of the Mississippi River is "young." A series of seas covered the region until 400 million years ago, when the Ordovician Sea retreated from this area. Each of these seas left behind the deposits that now form the sedimentary layers of limestone, sandstone and shale through which the river has cut. These layers are clearly exposed in the river gorge from St. Anthony Falls to Fort Snelling. The beginning of this segment of the Mississippi is bound by rolling, sparsely wooded farmland, though houses, other buildings and bridges become more numerous as the river approaches downtown Minneapolis. Nonetheless, many of the city's buildings are set high on bluffs so that a strip of natural land survives along the stream.

Mississippi River

Fish and wildlife - Popular game fish in this stretch are smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleyes, saugers, northern pike, muskie and pan fish. All along this route it is possible to spot species of wildlife that are able to coexist with man. Mallards, coots, muskrats, beavers and several species of turtles often are sighted. Along the shore you may see raccoons, deer, or fox; you certainly will see their tracks. During spring and fall migrations many species of birds follow the river, including bald eagles, ospreys, warblers and kinglets.

The Minnesota Department of Health has guidelines for consuming fish taken from Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Go to the Fish Consumption Advisory Page to find out more.


Cultural Information - The construction of Fort Snelling began in 1819, and soon white people displaced the Dakota and Ojibwe Indians. European technology quickly harnessed St. Anthony Falls for milling textiles and flour. Steamboats brought goods, settlers and tourists to the blossoming towns of St. Anthony Falls and Pig's Eye, which later became parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul. As the vast forests of white and red pine were cut along the upper reaches of the Mississippi and its tributaries, rafts of logs arrived at local mills.

In the 1900s, the river again changed as man built locks and dams for barges. This stretch of the river has two locks at St. Anthony Falls and one at the Ford Dam above Fort Snelling. Navigating these locks can be an exciting experience for canoeists and small-boat operators. It can also be dangerous. Use caution.