Natural History

The best way to see the geology of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is from a boat or canoe leisurely drifting down the Mississippi River. The next best way is traveling down the Great River Road, a road that stretches along the Mississippi River from its source in Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico.


Geology of the Twin Cities

Lilydale Fossils

Friends of Lilydale Park


Hidden Falls
1415 Mississippi River Blvd. S., St. Paul, MN 55116
The park dates back to 1887, when it was selected by Horace Cleveland, a nationally known landscape architect and park planner, as one of four major park sites for the City of Saint Paul.

Mill Ruins Park
103 Portland Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55401
The park is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, adjacent to St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge and is known as the focal point of the Minneapolis Milling District.

St. Anthony Falls
1 Portland Avenue Minneapolis, MN 54401
About 10,000 years ago, the great River Warren Falls reached the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. There it split into two separate falls, and the one that followed the Mississippi River course became St. Anthony Falls. Father Hennepin gave the falls its current name in 1680 being the first European to view the falls.



Pine Bend Bluff
This area represents one of the largest relatively undisturbed natural areas left in the Twin Cities metro area. A partnership of government and non-government agencies and organizations cooperated in preserving this property in its natural state.

Grey Cloud Dunes
Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area is a rare prairie with dunes rising in waves cresting 10 to 20 feet. Distinct plant communities are present throughout the area, including little bluestem, penstemon, prairie dropseed, sand reed grass, gramma grass, and silky prairie clover plants. Tree species consist of elm, silver maple, cottonwood, and box elder. Blue racers, an uncommon Minnesota snake, and prairie skinks are also present.


Mississippi River Oak Savannas

Prairie Ecosystems



Coon Rapids Dam
9750 Egret Boulevard Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Just north of the west side of the dam is an osprey platform. Trails south of the visitor center wind through floodplain forest along the river occasionally giving access to small islands that harbor a variety of river mammals including beaver, otter, mink and muskrat. Wading and songbirds are frequently seen here.

Islands of Peace County Park
200 Charles St NE, Fridley MN 55432
Colonial nesting birds, especially herons, rear their young in this three-island area every year and is home to a pair of bald eagles. Occasionally during the spring, access is closed to the two more remote islands to protect the noticeable bird population.


Mississippi River Mussels

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

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


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

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