Take a couple seconds to study the photograph in the header. What do you think it shows, besides a depot and railroad tracks?
This is downtown Mankato’s view of the Minnesota River. You don’t see the river, you say. No you do not, thanks to 1965.
If you drive the roads near the Minnesota River between Minneapolis and Mankato, you will come to signs sitting higher than your car that tell you how high the water was in the 1965 flood. It was a corker. It devastated Mankato and North Mankato, or so I am told or read. I did not move here until 1997. The result of that flood was an ingenious system to prevent any additional floods using a three-mile long seawall on both sides.
The water has reached the seawall only twice since I have lived here. It has prevented much damage, but in the process it has hidden the river from the two towns. You can get to the river in two parks at the ends of the seawalls, but even there the river is not a significant presence. Decorah, Iowa in a similar way ignores its river. Here we ignore it so successfully that even when it does reach flood stage, we just drive over the three bridges without much of a thought, not that we get much of a view.
This is the the Minnesota River, the first significant tributary of the Mississippi, the site of Glacial River Warren, which was once a monstrous flood.
The Army Corps of Engineers did provide a gap in the seawall into which they can insert a water-tight piece. On the inside of the seawall is a bicycle and walking trail. I used to it ride to work, but I only seldom met anyone on it.
The railroad tracks along the outside of Mankato seawall says that the two towns never have much respected the riverfront. Oh, how we all wish we could go back to the pioneers and say, “Don’t settle right by the rivers; move up to higher ground. It WILL flood.” I would like to say many things to the pioneers, but first thanks, and then ask many questions about their experience.
What would you ask or say to the pioneers of Minnesota?