Thursday, July 11, 2019

Minnesota River Primer

Image result for minnesota river
Environmental & Science Education
Water & Watersheds
Earth Science
Edward Hessler

What do you know about Minnesota's namesake river, the Minnesota River? If you know all about it stop here, no need to read further.

However, if you don't know much about the river and/or are uneasy about what you think you know, I strongly recommend the relatively short primer, A Run-Down River Runs Through It Star Tribune (May 5 2019), by Ron Way.

It includes Minnesota's settlement history, glacial history, drainage of the prairie potholes, Minnesota's connection to the Gulf of Mexico, various attempts to make the river clean, the roar and fury when the last glacial ice melted, and along the way shark's teeth and a note that this river is also home to some of the oldest pre-Cambrian gneiss anywhere. In the end you realized that it is quite a river.

Some quotes:

"The Minnesota was central in the region's settlement history, a highway to the interior of of a territory that as a state would take the river's name. River sediments together with rich glacial till produced remarkable soil that still yields a cornucopia of sustenance."

"By any reasoned reckoning, the Minnesota River is deserving of superstar status. For several thousand years it rumbled and roiled, its miles-wide valley filled to the brim with melt-water from glacial Lake Agassiz, a monster that dwarfed today's five Great Lakes combined."

"Today, tens of thousands of miles of ditches and drain tiles ... carry excess fertilizer into the Minnesota River, where chemical-induced algae devour oxygen. The stew remains active down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, where nutrients from Midwest farms have created an ever-expanding, oxygen-free dead zone."

"The Minnesota basin is a lamentable mess, with intractable political forces preventing common-sense solutions. At the same time, there are many places around New Ulm and Granite Falls where canoeists can experience amazing scenery of heavily-wooded banks and steep cliffs." 

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