Coldwater Spring ‘Sneak Peek’ outing

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What: Coldwater Spring will be a new unit of our local national park, MNRRA (Mississippi National River and Recreation Area), 72 miles of the Mississippi and environs through the metro area. It is a 29 acre parcel that the park service began managing in 2010, beginning by removing abandoned Bureau of Mines buildings. The plan is to restore the land to oak savanna, prairie and wetland and to daylight (ie uncover) Coldwater Creek. The spring itself is of historic significance to native Americans, and because of use by early EuroAmericans. An advocacy group, maintains that the spring (or springs) is a sacred place for native people and is pushing for its recognition as a traditional cultural property. Our Sierra Club group was offered a preview of the area with a park ranger and Kate Havelin of the Mississippi River Fund. Susu Jeffry of Friends of Coldwater also gave a brief account of the group’s differences with the Park Service, which you can read about at Friends of Coldwater.

When: A misty Sunday in May.

How: Several arrived by bike, others walking from the 50th Street light rail station, others by car (note that while the emphasis is on transit for TtGS outings, we don’t descriminate against people arriving by car, since transit from far flung places in our region is not always easy).

How accesible: Coldwater Spring is very accesible by bike, lying at the south end of Minnehaha Park. Use the Minnehaha Park bluff bike trail and a dead end road running parallel to Hiawatha Ave. from 54th Street south for 1/4 mile. By light rail people can use the 50th street station and enjoy the walk along the bluff trail in Minnehaha Park (about 1 mile) or Veterans Administration stop, and then walk down 54th street to the dead end road, a route which is a little closer but takes you through the neighborhood, not the park. The closest transit is the #22 bus which has a stop at 48th ave. S. and 54th street, about 1/2 mile from the entrance to the site.

Worth doing: The park is not yet open to the public, so taking a “sneak peek” tour is interesting. Because of the removal of large buildings the site does have the look of a construction zone with piles of rubble and large empty spaces, which is why going with a guide is important. Our guides Kate and Emily laid out the vision, which includes using rubble for walks and creating a calcareous fen out of a flooded area previously the basement of one of the buildings (see photos). They also showed us pictures of structures that existed in other eras around the spring – a surprising amount of development that at one point included a hotel. The current plan would keep the rustic spring house.

For the schedule of sneak peek visits or to set one up, check out


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