cultural territorial networks

environmental heritage



The Mississippi River originates in northern Minnesota at Lake Itasca and flows through the heart of North America. Minneapolis-St. Paul is the first major urban center it meets on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Highlighted here are three important tributaries that spill into it at Minneapolis-St. Paul. Together they have shaped the development of the region by providing transportation routes for moving goods and people and also power to drive mills for grain and lumber.
Minnehaha Creek and its waterfall were immortalized in Longfellow’s epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha”. Today, it is managed by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to control flooding and water quality.
The St. Croix River is similarly protected at the Federal level by its designation as the St Croix National Scenic Riverway.
The Minnesota River is a major U.S. river and the first of several that connect to the Mississippi as it makes it way south. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge protects, preserves and interprets critical habitat along the river in several separate “units” or protected areas under refuge management.

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1.1 Minnehaha Creek Watershed District


The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) is the regional governmental unit responsible for managing and protecting the water resources of the Minnehaha Creek watershed. It is located in the area including and immediately west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The watershed area is 181 square miles (46878 hectares).

The District was established in 1967 under the Minnesota Watershed District Act, which recognizes that hydrologic boundaries rarely match political boundaries. The 1955 act established watershed districts to integrate water management efforts between city, county and state agencies.

The District’s 2006 Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan sets goals to protect the waters within its boundaries. It emphasizes cooperation with local officials, public education and community involvement to manage natural resources important to Lake Minnetonka, Minnehaha Creek, the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, and the other waters in the District.


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1.2 St. Croix National Scenic Riverway


The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was established by the U.S. Congress to protect its scenic quality and historical resources. It is managed by the National Park service. It flows for 165 mi. (266 km) from its source to the Mississippi River. It drains 7,760 sq. mi. (2,009,831 hec) and is within a half-hour from downtown St. Paul.

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway boundaries contain cultural features dating back 10,000 years. They include historic American Indian archeological sites and historical sites related to the arrival of Europeans. In 1837 a treaty opened the area to settlement by Euro-Americans.

Some of the Riverway's history is interpreted in visitor center exhibits and programming. Little interpretation is directly linked to specific resources because of distances, lack of specific site knowledge, and security concerns. Therefore, understanding of its cultural resources by the visiting public is limited.


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1.3 The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge


The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is less than 10 mi. (16 km) from downtown Minneapolis. It is one of only a handful of urban national wildlife refuges in the U.S. It is 14,000 acres (5,666 hec), and stretches 50 mi. (80 km) west along the Minnesota River from its mouth at the Mississippi River.

The refuge was established by the U.S. Congress in 1976 to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife threatened by commercial and industrial development. The National Wildlife Refuge System contains over 540 national wildlife refuges, encompassing over 93,000,000 acres (24,086,889,426 hec).

The Refuge offers a variety of free primitive and natural outdoor recreational experiences. Its recreation uses include: Wildlife observation, wildlife photography, hunting and fishing. The refuge also has two Education & Visitors Centers, with the main Center located 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the Mall of America.

Minnesota National Wildlife Refuge

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