Angle to Key West: Industrial River (9/25)

Minneapolis, MN – September 25, 2012

Civilization dismantles the wild as the river stretches into downtown Minneapolis. The tree-lined banks sputter and disappear. Bridges soar above the water every half-mile. Mountains of scrap metal rise along the shore.

Factories crowd for space. Loading docks hang in the water. Machinery grinds its joints black with grease.

Bulldozers and cranes rumble to life. The sound of diesel engines and conveyor belts fill the air. Motors growl inside anything that moves.

The wind smells rusted like old metal. The air tastes off, worn, and used. Buildings rise into the sky until they crowd the horizon.

Civilization felt out-of-place along the water once. It was there in chunks–a dam, a factory, a town–but it was always the intruder, the other, the piece that didn’t belong. Not anymore, now I’m the stranger in a place I thought I knew.

Note: This is about the approach into the Twin Cities. Once inside, between St. Anthony’s and downtown St. Paul, it is actually quite beautiful, but I didn’t get past St. Anthony’s on this day. A few days later I saw what a fantastic park system has been built around the river between downtowns. Great job Twin Cities! Just wanted to clarify because the efforts to make the river beautiful should be applauded!

8 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Industrial River (9/25)

  1. Yuk!!! I think it is a misnomer to call it civilization. Similar to the word “development”. Native peoples thought white man didn’t qualify to be called “human beings”. This grossness is a product of this “yuk” factor. Get out while you can!

  2. Yuk? Not at all. I live dontown Minneapolis… close enough to roll by kayak down to the river. No doubt Mpls has a history of turning her back on the river but that is changing. There are reports of River Otters for the first time in decades. Dozens of Bald Eagles nest along the river. The fish are back right in downtown. A large Blue Heron rookery. There is very little industry on the river now. Those factories? They are now condos. The pic in the post is north of downtown and is indeed an indsutrial site… scrap metal recycling. an the smell is acutally a large composting facility. Very little industrial boat traffic exists because they can’t go past the Coon rapids dam. The little that does has a limited life span due to the river front plans of removing industry (replacing with more parkland) and the threat of asian carp will likely result in closing the locks and dams before Minneapolis.

    Whil it is not the wilderness he traveled prior to Mpls it is an urban gem and getting better all the time. Come check it out. Oh yeah, the bit about tress? Artistic liscense. 85% of the river through Minneapolis is tree lined.

    1. Happily, this is true. Once you get to downtown, especially below St. Anthony’s, it turns into an amazing, tree-lined park until after St. Paul, where it turns industrial again. It was quite stunning in the middle and the Twin Cities should be congratulated on a great effort there. I took out that day just above St. Anthony’s though, so wrote this before I reached the nice part!

    2. Thank you for defending Minneapolis! Sounds like some real progress has been made there.

  3. In many ways, the river is the railroad — America’s backyard. The cities are trying to reclaim their waterfronts, but many of them — St,. Paul for example — are owned by the barge companies.

  4. Indeed, that middle stretch is cool. My wife and I call it Kayakistan! I bet you hit it as the colors were starting to change. I’ve always intended to paddle that section during the fall and just haven’t pulled it off yet. Unfortunately, once you hit the Minnesota at Pike’s Island things start to change. Progress is frustratingly slow at times. Looking forward to more tales of your adventure!

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