• Mississippi National River and Recreation Area


    National River & Recreation Area Minnesota

Mississippi Gorge Region

Map of Section 12 of the Trail User Guide
Franklin Avenue Bridge (river mile 851.5) to the Ford Parkway Bridge (river mile 847.8)

These are easy, popular, off-road paths on both sides of the river. A continuous loop crossing at the Franklin Avenue Bridge and the Ford Parkway Bridge is about 8 miles. The Lake St. Bridge at river mile 850 is midway in the section if the trip needs to be cut short.

While most of the trail follows the river from atop the bluffs, other trails take you through Mississippi Gorge and Minnehaha Regional Park. Trails wind past Minnehaha Falls which were made famous in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, "The Song of Hiawatha."

This part of the river demonstrates a river gorge and it is the only place along the entire 2,350 mile length of the Mississippi where a gorge has been dug by the Mighty Mississippi.

Near 36th St. on the west side of the river, the Longfellow Community Council, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board and the National Park Service are partnering to restore a rare mesic Oak Savanna Prairie.

For more information, call the Mississippi River Visitor Center at (651) 293-0200 or the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board at (612) 661-4800 or St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department at (651) 266-6400.

Trail Notes and Gaps:
  1. East River Flats Park:This Park is located below the bluffs of the U of M campus, right off East River Road, between Washington and Franklin Avenues. It is best known for its landscaped, open spaces, close proximity to the Mississippi River, and the University’s rowing club. A well-kept secret of this park is its access to a more secluded, 1.6-mile trail that closely follows the river, passing waterfalls and a cantilevered bridge right above the water. The trail begins at the south-end of the parking area, follows the river for a ways, and then switches back up an extremely steep hill to East River Road. There is a set of steps, but these, too, are very steep. Feel free to turn around, retrace your route, and enjoy this tranquil segment once again, perhaps stopping for a picnic in the park before heading back up to where you began. The East River Flats trail is a nice diversion from the busier trail along the bluff, although both provide wonderful views depending on how close you want to get to the river. Since the lower trail is in a secluded area, it is recommended that you travel with a companion.
  2. The Winchell Trail is a multi-segment hiking-only trail on the west bank between Franklin Avenue and 44th Street. Unpaved paths break away from the main trail along the bluffs and cut into the woods, allowing you to really experience the lower gorge. One section drops down to the sandy shore of the Mississippi River and another takes you through an oak savanna restoration area. Some sections are rugged and others are closed for vegetation restoration, so follow the signs and stay on the path. These unpaved trails can often be muddy after it rains and have a number of stairways--some dating back to the 1930s. Between 38th Street and 44th Street the Winchell trail doubles as the paved,pedestrian-only segment of the separated bike/pedestrian trail along the bluffs. Here pedestrians can slip away for West River Parkway and descend into the gorge.
  3. If you are on the Ford Bridge it's easy to miss the west bank trail, and if you are on the west bank trail it is easy to miss the Ford Bridge. The west bank trail continues unbder the bridge and connects with Minnehaha Regional Park. The bridge comes to a five-way intersection with no trail in sight. If you are on the bridge turn left on 46th Avenue South. If you are on the trail look for46th Avenue South near the eastern entrance to Minnehaha Park and follow it north. Turn right at the first stoplight onto the Ford Bridge.

Did You Know?

A slow and shallow section of Itaska.

At the headwaters of the Mississippi, the average surface speed of the water is 1.2 miles per hour. People typically walk 3 miles per hour.