Meeker Island Lock and Dam Historic Park

Canoeists boat past a shallowly-submerged cement wall and a metal fixture.
Parts of the Meeker Dam locks are still visible during low water, including  mooring points such as this one.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman

Introduction

Meeker Island was the site of the first and northernmost lock and dam on the Mississippi River. Built to extend navigation from St. Paul northward to Minneapolis, it is also became a symbol of the economic and political rivalry between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

History

The geologic retreat of St. Anthony Falls northward created a nearly insurmountable navigation barrier north of St. Paul. Here the river ran through a rock-strewn, island-dotted gorge, now known as the Mississippi River Gorge.

Saint Paul, laying at the foot of the rapids, became the “head of navigation” for the Mississippi River and an important port for goods arriving or leaving the area. A dam built at Meeker Island would inundate the rock-strewn rapids below St. Anthony Falls permitting steamboats to reach Minneapolis, but also reduce St. Paul’s importance as a port.

Engineers built the Meeker Island Lock and Dam (formerly known as Lock and Dam 2) in 1907 and had nearly completed the Lock and Dam 1 downstream when Congress agreed to replace these two low dams with a single high dam capable of generating hydroelectric power at the location of the Lock and Dam 1.

The resulting pool not only inundated the dangerous rapids but also the Meeker Lock and Dam, forcing its abandonment only five years after its completion. Engineers removed the upper five feet of the dam to further reduce its threat to navigation. Parts of the lock system may still be seen on the east side of the river during low water.

In 2003, the ruins of the Meeker Island Lock and Dam were included on the National Register of Historic Places and much more about its significance may be found in its nomination documents. (Note that this document refers to the Meeker Lock and Dam as Lock and Dam 2.)

Activities

Views of the river and the ruins of the Meeker Island dam and lock system can be had from the trail that winds through the park. Picnic tables and benches are also available.

Hours, Directions, and Contact Information

  • (parking) 419 Emerald St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
  • GPS (parking): 44.955443, -93.207819
  • Meeker Lock and Dam is down the hill on a dirt trail.

Last updated: August 16, 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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