First Bridge Park

 
A small bronze statue of a snapping turtle.
Numerous bronze sculptures of Mississippi wildlife, such as this snapping turtle, adorn the top of the sitting wall that curves through the park.

Introduction

The name for the park was chosen because it is the site of the first bridge across the Mississippi River - anywhere! Along with Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis, First Bridge Park represents an effort to preserve and illustrate the history of Minneapolis.

History

Until late 1854, travelers bound for the west crossed the Mississippi River by fording the river and later by ferry. Then in 1854, the first bridge to span the Mississippi River anywhere along its length was constructed at this location by a group of speculators led by Franklin Steele.

Up to this time roads and trails tended to run parallel to the river and brought people and goods to the river’s banks for transport north or south by ship. Bridges changed this dynamic as goods could be shipped east and west across the river.

The original bridge at this location was operated as a private toll bridge until it was purchased in 1869 by Hennepin County. Unfortunately, it quickly deteriorated and was replaced by a succession of three other bridges built in this same location.

The current Hennepin Avenue Bridge was constructed in 1990, but pilings and artifacts from those previous bridges still exist and are preserved within the park. Interpretive panels summarize the area’s rich history.

A curving wall is a great place to sit and view the river. Look for artwork embedded on the wall, sidewalk, and elsewhere in the park. The park is on the west bank of the river and is linked to other nearby parks through an extensive trail system.

Activities

Biking, Fishing & Hunting, Hiking & Walks, History & Culture

Nearby Sites

Nicollet Island Park, St. Anthony Falls Historic District, Stone Arch Bridge, Mill Ruins Park, Boom Island, Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, St. Anthony Falls

Hours, Directions, and Contact Information

Last updated: November 4, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone:

(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Visitor Center. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1 day, often sooner.

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