National Geographic : 1958 Nov
The canoeist paddles through much of Min neapolis scarcely aware that the city exists. In the heart of Minnesota's largest city, the river passes through a canyon closed in on both sides by wooded banks hundreds of feet high. The gorge is a quiet sanctuary for birds and probably about as it was when man first saw it. Bridges cross so high above that they hardly disturb travelers on the river. For long stretches no houses are to be seen; yet we found later when we drove along the river roads that only a screen of trees shuts off beautiful residential districts from the water. In the Land of Hiawatha An unimportant-looking little stream comes in from the west, but this trivial trickle is one of the best loved waters in America. It is Minnehaha Creek, immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On its way through Minneapolis, City of Lakes, this woodland creek passes through Lake Hiawatha, and divides to embrace the island on which stands a bronze statue of Hiawatha about to bear his sweetheart across the rapids. Then, at Minnehaha Falls, the stream plunges over a precipice, to the daily delight of hundreds of admiring visitors. A little farther down we paddled under old Fort Snelling, at one time the northwestern most post of the U. S. Army. Here the Min nesota River quietly joins the Mississippi. As if this reinforcement gives it the courage to face the world, the Mississippi now flows through the busiest part of Saint Paul. Commercial traffic of large river craft begins here at the Twin Cities. St. Anthony Falls, however, still blocks off one of the chief in dustrial districts of Minneapolis. To tap this area, the falls is now to be bypassed by two great locks (page 662). The lower lock, already built, has a lift of 25 feet. The upper lock, planned for comple tion in 1962, will hoist boats 50 feet, the highest lift on the entire Mississippi. Above the locks an upper harbor 3.5 miles long will be constructed, to serve this metropolitan complex of 1,240,000 people. Saint Paul's youthful mayor, Joseph E. Dillon, took us to the roof of his city's tallest office building, the First National Bank, and pointed out a large area in a bend of the Mississippi. There was little to be seen but swamp, trees, and some shacks. "It doesn't look like much now," he said. "It's been flooded twice in recent years. Naturally, industry is afraid to build there. 668 But we have great plans for it. We expect the Corps of Engineers to dike it so there'll be no more flooding. Then we can reclaim about 3,000 acres and bring in industries that can use the river. "We aren't realizing at present the potential value of the Mississippi. It is America's great north-south axis. The trouble with us is that we think east-westwise, not north-south. Our great railroads run east and west. We buy and sell with New York, Chicago, San Fran cisco, but we ignore the great opportunities that are opening up in the southern States. "The Mississippi offers us direct communi cation with the South. We should use it more than we do." The soft sandstone upon which Saint Paul is built is easily cut away, and there are miles of tunnels under the city. One cave contains $100,000 worth of aging cheeses, and in others large white mushrooms are grown and stored awaiting shipment. Russian rivalry in scientific achievement has made the United States painfully conscious of the need for modern laboratories. Many in dustries in the Twin Cities are tireless in research.* "Research is the key to tomorrow" is the motto of the Minnesota Mining and Manu facturing Company, familiarly known as the 3M. The firm produces a surprising variety of things, from "Scotch" tape to abrasives, roofing material, and chemicals. The company employs more than 1,400 chemists, physicists, and engineers seeking new products or better ways to make the old ones. Several of the largest 3M laboratories stand on a 150-acre tract on the city's east side. The ideas formulated there and in other company laboratories take commercial form in huge factories in Saint Paul and in 36 other cities, both in this country and abroad (pages 678-9). River of the Floating Palaces We now had come to the river of big boats. The Mississippi from the Twins to the gulf was once famous for its floating palaces, with great side wheels or stern wheels, with tall smokestacks topped with iron crowns, with murals and chandeliers and sumptuous cabins and good food and a deep whistle and gay music on the calliope. There are a few of the old steamboats left. We boarded one, the Avalon, at a Saint Paul dock for an excursion down-river. Away aloft * See "Minnesota Makes Ideas Pay," by Frederick G. Vosburgh, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Sep tember, 1949.