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The Streams and Rivers of Minnesota

The Streams and Rivers of Minnesota

Photographs and maps by the author Thomas F. Waters
Copyright Date: 1977
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Streams and Rivers of Minnesota
    Book Description:

    Everyone who canoes, fishes, and enjoys Minnesota’s waterways will find this an indispensable guide. “Belongs in the traveling bag of every Minnesotan and every visitor.” --St. Paul Pioneer Press “Delightfully written.” --Minnesota History

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8168-6
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-1)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
  4. Introduction The Magic of Flowers Waters
    (pp. 3-12)

    The Giants Range is the major highland feature of northeast Mlinnesota, dividing the region into its two principal watersheds. Ancient mountains composed of very old granite, still resistant to erosion, they tower 400 feet above surrounding glacial plains. Running in an east-west direction for fifty miles, the Giants Range is broken by the Embarrass River, which drains northern glacial lake beds through a magnificent forested gorge that was cut by meltwaters when the great ice sheets were retreating.

    From the north slope, streams flow to the Canadian border and Hudson Bay. Streams on the south slope flow southwest around the...

  5. Chapter 1 The Nemadji Basin Rivers in Red Clay
    (pp. 13-24)

    The traveler driving from southern Minnesota to Duluth or th vacationlands of the Arrowhead country may leave the busy interstate and instead take the Evergreen Memorial Highway — actually part of Minnesota 23 —a byway bordered by dark spruce, pines, and thick, glistening stands of birch. Just north of the village of Nickerson, the road drops sharply over the rim of a hill, and the forested roadside suddenly gives way to a clear view of a great depression in the land, stretching far ahead to shadowed distances and beyond to the hills of the northern horizon.

    This is the basin of...

  6. Chapter 2 The St. Louis River of Glaciers
    (pp. 25-43)

    The St. Louis River flows indolently past the twin ports of Duluith, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, through its wide, flat estuary —St. Louis Bay. The bay is lined with the harbor facilities, industrial wharves, and commercial dockyards of the largest inland navigation port in the United States. In its final reach the St. Louis flows beneath Interstate 535 bridge, which spans the river between Duluth and Superior, adding its waters to Lake Superior, the head of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River drainage.

    But the St. Louis did not always flow docilely as it does now in St. Louis Bay, nor...

  7. Chapter 3 The North Shore Streams A Crown of Waterfalls
    (pp. 44-71)

    Most Minnesota North Shore streams rise on the Highland Moraine, a steep, rugged range of hills deposited by the glaciers on ancient rock, overlooking Lake Superior. The moraine parallels the big lake and forms the upper border of this narrow watershed. Here the streams seep slowly through upland bogs and marshes; then later, downslope, they course through a jumble of old lava flows and glacial boulders, traversing some of the most diverse landforms in the world. Finally, they plunge down the last few hundred feet in spectacular cascades and waterfalls that crest the northern border of Lake Superior.

    There are...

  8. Chapter 4 Rainy River The Border Trail
    (pp. 72-94)

    Three thousand miles, from the deep-water depot of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River to Fort Chipewyan on the far Northwest’s Lake Athabaska —this was the Voyageur’s Highway, life-line of the North American fur trade. It was an incredible route apart from its vast distances and forested wilderness. It included some 120 grueling portages, 200 rapids so violent they could not be run by canoe, 50 lakes large enough that wind and waves could suddenly bring grief and tragedy. But it was a magnificent route, too — this trail of the French-Canadian canoemen —with its dark virgin forests, blue lakes, and...

  9. Chapter 5 Big Fork-Little Fork Wild Waters North
    (pp. 95-105)

    The Big Fork and Little Fork rivers flow north to our border with Canada in superb wildness. Notable for their freeflowing aspect, they include long pools, waterfalls, and swift rapids—and some great remote stretches.

    Settlement and industry came early to the streams because they empty into the Rainy River, part of the canoe trails of early explorers. Fur traders from Lake Superior and New France routinely passed their mouths. And later, because their watersheds had some choice tracts of native white pine and other valued timber, they served as important log-driving rivers, discharging their loads to the Rainy and...

  10. Chapter 6 The Red River Valley Legacy of Glacial Lake Agassiz
    (pp. 106-131)

    When the last of the glaciers retreated through northwestern Minnesota and North Dakota, the meltwaters began to form a vast freshwater lake. It was destined to become, in known geologic time, the most extensive body of fresh water ever to have existed on the North American continent: Glacial Lake Agassiz, named for Louis Agassiz, Swiss-American geologist.

    As the glaciers melted in the region of modern-day Browns Valley on the Minnesota-South Dakota border, water was trapped north of the moraine near present Lake Traverse. Northern outlets were blocked by glacial ice, while the southern margin of ice warmed and melted.


  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. Chapter 7 The St. Croix Wild River to a Nation
    (pp. 132-150)

    The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark of American natural resource legislation, became law of the land n 1968, establishing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Its purpose is to implement a declared policy of the United States to preserve in free-flowing condition those streams having “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values,” for the benefit of both present and future generations.

    Initially about 675 streams or specified reaches were considered for inclusion. The battle for passage was long and intense; at the end only eight rather noncontroversial rivers remained...

  13. Chapter 8 The Snake and Kettle White Pine and White Water
    (pp. 151-165)

    Down from the high divides in east-central Minnesota separating the Mississippi drainage from Lake Superior’s, two of Minnesota’s wildest streams come alternately brawling and gliding toward their mouths in the St. Croix. Brown with the organic stain of bog and swamp, and nearly stagnant in a few large pools in late summer, they rush crashing and frothing through white-water stretches in the springtime. In the final reaches they hurry down rapids as if they knew there would be no more.

    Through the fabled St. Croix Delta, the Snake and Kettle carried large quantities of pine logs in great river drives....

  14. Chapter 9 The Pine Country Creeks Of Trout Streams and Timberdoodles
    (pp. 166-173)

    The St. Croix River, after first touching Minnesota, rushes westward in a great sweeping curve and then flows south, forming the border with Wisconsin. From north of this rough westerly curve, a number of small streams drain a part of Minnesota’s Pine County, flowing south to join the St. Croix. Separated from all other watersheds of the state, these little creeks—more than forty in all—compose a small watershed of their own. And although the drainage area is relatively small—510 square miles—the Pine County creeks impart a unique natural character to this corner of Minnesota.

    The explanation...

  15. Chapter 10 The Rum River of Good Spirits
    (pp. 174-183)

    Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota’s second largest, and famous for its walleye and northern pike fishing, is the headwater of the Rum River. But before the French “discovered” Mille Lacs, this inland sea was the veritable center of another culture —it was the “Spirit Lake” and focus of the Sioux world. The French were the first explorers to visit the Indian capital—Du Luth in 1679, Father Hennepin (as a prisoner of the Sioux) in 1680—but the area was finally occupied by another Indian nation. Bitter war between the Chippewa and Sioux through most of northern Minnesota finally resulted in...

  16. Chapter 11 The Crow Wing Oxcart to Canoe
    (pp. 184-194)

    They say you could hear them coming for miles, long before he string of dust plumes became visible. Made entirely of vood and rawhide, the utilitarian Red River oxcart was for a quarter century the mainstay of trade between the head of Mississippi River navigation at St. Paul and the frontier settlements on the northern Red River. It was a flourishing trade —to be replaced only by the steamboat and the railroad. An oxcart train consisted of as many as eighty or ninety carts divided into brigades of ten carts each; they groaned along at two miles per hour, twenty...

  17. Chapter 12 The Mississippi I. The North Woods
    (pp. 195-215)

    The Mississippi River rises in the bogs and spruce swamps of a lorthern Minnesota wilderness, tumbles down through the state, and then downstream flows sedately through the country’s heartland to the warm Gulf of Mexico. The history of the river’s influence on the United States is virtually the record of the midnation itself. The river flows from the isolation of northern wild rice beds to the clatter of metropolitan industry. And below St. Anthony Falls, a cataract once wild but now tamed, the river is one of the world’s notable commercial waterways, along which fuel, food, and building materials...

  18. Chapter 13 The Mississipi II. GREAT River
    (pp. 216-246)

    Contrary to some understandable misconceptions, the name “Mississippi” is not of southern but rather of Minnesota origin. The Chippewa name was Mee-zee-see-pee, or Messipi; others called it Mese-sebe, or Missicipy, or Meschasipi, or other variations. In the end, “Mississippi” prevailed. It means “Big River,” or “Father of Waters” —the Great River, the Mighty Mississippi—rising in the northern wilds of Minnesota!

    But nowhere in the state of Minnesota has the Mississippi River had a more significant effect than in the metropolitan area of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Mississippi and St. Anthony Falls in particular are responsible for the location and even...

  19. Chapter 14 The Southeast Rivers of the Driftless Area
    (pp. 247-270)

    High on a windy, wooded ridge overlooking the old townsite of Beaver in the Whitewater Valley is a small graveyard. Rows of white cedars, planted many years ago, mark the cemetery borders and outline some grave sites. Many graves are more than a hundred years old; the inscriptions carved on headstones are difficult to read, if distinguishable at all, worn by a century of rain and frost.

    Here lie the settlers who first came to Minnesota—men and women who lived to be very old, even by today’s standards, toughened by the rigors of the frontier. Here also lie row...

  20. Chapter 15 The Upper Iowa and Ceder Outlets to Iowa
    (pp. 271-277)

    Rising in the sunny pastures of southern Minnesota, the turbid Upper Iowa River flows slowly south over the plains of Minnesota into Iowa. After its initial entry into Iowa it loops north across the border four times before the river finally leaves Minnesota, heading east to its mouth in the Mississippi. Coursing through the clear pools and beneath the towering limestone bluffs of the rugged northeast corner of Iowa, this stream is one of the midwest’s outstanding scenic resources, Iowa’s proffered contribution to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

    The wild rivers legislation enacted in 1968 provided for eight...

  21. Chapter 16 The Blue Earth Fool’s Copper
    (pp. 278-287)

    Among the earliest French adventurers in Minnesota was Pierre Charles le Sueur, fur trader and explorer along the upper Mississippi River in the late 1600s. From a smaller, more western river Le Sueur had obtained a sample of strange, bluish-green clay, and he took the clay to France, so the story goes, where a king’s officer, one Le Huillier, assayed it and concluded that it contained copper. Consequently in 1700 Le Sueur came back to the wilderness with an expedition fully prepared to ascend the Riviere St. Pierre and southern tributary they named the Riviere Verte (Green River) to establish...

  22. Chapter 17 The Southwest Rivers of the Coteau des Prairies
    (pp. 288-303)

    The broad, flat-iron-shaped Coteau des Prairies is an elevation of the plains of northeastern South Dakota, its northern tip just touching the North Dakota border and its eastern edge cutting the southwestern corner of Minnesota. This plateau, “the highland of the prairies” 500 to 800 feet higher than the central plains, is the most conspicuous surface feature in southwestern Minnesota and sets the topographic stage for the streams of the region.

    The Coteau exists because it rests in part on a base of hard quartzitic rock, the remains of an ancient mountain range. Ridges of this very old rock resisted...

  23. Chapter 18 The Minnesota Corridor West
    (pp. 304-323)

    During the mid-1800s many significant changes occurred in the land that was to become Minnesota. It was a dynamic period of rapid settlement, improvements in transportation, and increasing trade, and the Minnesota River played a large role in this development. But two events took place along the river’s banks that were to have a profound and disastrous effect upon the settlement of the valley and the new state. The first occasioned great hopes and aspirations for the future; the second, with its bloody violence, shocked civilized North America.

    At the village of Traverse des Sioux (named for the traditional crossing...

  24. Minnesota’s Streams A Call for Stewardship
    (pp. 324-336)

    Sky-blue or not, the Minnesota River is a stream that has been put to trial and has emerged almost unscathed. The soil, trees, wildlife, and muddy waters of the Minnesota Valley sustained the men and women of central Minnesota for more than a century, and when representatives of a government cadre of engineers demanded that hills and homesteads be buried beneath dammed waters, they were met with the resistance of a people whose values are rooted in their land.

    No stream in Minnesota—perhaps in the nation—has had its future so threatened, its natural character so marked for destruction,...

  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 337-344)
  26. Index to Minnesota Streams
    (pp. 347-353)
  27. General Index
    (pp. 354-373)