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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Saint Anthony Falls Powerplant Bridges
Saint Anthony Falls Powerplant Mississippi River Channel Crossings
Minneapolis, MN

Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges

Statistics Common To All Four Bridges:
• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 853.9.
• Structure: Upper Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant
Upper Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridge #1
• River Elevation: 801 Feet.
• Bridge Type: Girder With Concrete Deck.
• Length: 54 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 18 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water:
• Date Built:
Upper Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridge #2
• River Elevation: 751 Feet.
• Bridge Type: Steel Girder.
• Length: 100 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 6 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water: 3 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built:
Upper Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridge #3
• River Elevation: 801 Feet.
• Bridge Type: Concrete Slab Deck.
• Length: 8 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 14 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water: 12 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built:
Upper Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridge #4
• River Elevation: 801 Feet.
• Bridge Type: Prefabricated Steel Truss.
• Length: 100 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 14 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water:
• Date Built: Installed November 2006.
As far as I can determine, there are four structures at the Upper Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant that I would consider to be bridges. This includes the following:
  • Bridge #1: Vehicle bridge across the powerhouse intake channel.
  • Bridge #2: Walkway across the powerhouse tailrace outlet.
  • Bridge #3: Vehicle bridge across the laboratory outlet channel.
  • Bridge #4: Walkway to the new Water Power Park.
These bridges do not cross the main channel of the Mississippi River. In addition, there may be more bridges on the site that I have not been able to confirm or photograph as follows:
  • Bridge #5: Walkway between laboratory and powerhouse.
  • Bridge #6: Walkway across the laboratory outlet channel.
  • Bridge #7: Vehicle bridge leading to storage shed.
There is a lot of activity going on in the area around the upper falls power plant. The main activity is generation of electrical power. The NSP (Northern States Power, owned by Xcel Energy) powerhouse was built in 1908 to supply power for the rapidly expanding street car system. The powerhouse was connected to the commercial power grid after the demise of the street car system, and generates 12-megawatts of electricity using 5 generators. The current generators date back to 1954. NSP also rebuilt the dam in front of the powerhouse, replacing it with a sheet pile and earthen structure in 2001.

Another major activity on Hennepin Island is the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, a facility managed and operated by the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota. The lab was founded in 1938 to be a research facility to study water flow. Its initial goal was to study dam projects, but today, that focus has shifted to a vast array of fluid flow and gas research projects, including the study of the removal of dams. The lab building consists of 5 floors, with 2 above the water level and 3 below the water level. In addition, the lab maintains and outdoor test channel and an outdoor stream simulation facility.

The final activity on Hennepin Island is new starting in 2007. In order for NSP to renew its hydropower license, they had to submit a plan for how the river area would be used for recreational purposes. NSP came up with the idea for Water Power Park. They installed a bridge to allow the general public to have access to the northern part of Hennepin Island. NSP further installed a number of walkways and viewing platforms to get spectacular up and close views of the river as it flows over the various levels of the upper Saint Anthony Falls dam. NSP has created a wonderful park that is a must-see for anyone visiting the falls area. The photo above is a view of the walkway bridge that leads from Main Street to the park.

Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
Bridge #1 is located in a spot where it is not possible to photograph without doing some serious and risky trespassing. The photo above, shot through a chain-link fence, shows the sidewalk and handrail leading to a bridge that crosses the powerhouse intake canal. The walkway starts in the center of the photo, and heads to the right. The photo below shows the channel that the bridge crosses, and the wooden doors that block the view of the bridge.

For hardcore bridge fans, we may have a glimpse of Bridge #5 in the photo above. If you look at the top center of the photo, there appears to be a short chimney. Just in front of the chimney is a handrail. That hand rail would be part of Bridge #5, if that bridge actually exists.

Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
These two photos are views of Bridge #3. This bridge crosses an outflow channel leaving the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory. It carries the outflow water from the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory and acts as an overflow valve for the powerplant intake. The lab is managed by the University of Minnesota, and is used to model flows of water, liquids, and gasses. The water flowing out of the outflow channel falls about 30 feet down to river level. It is such a nice waterfall, yet it is hardly known despite being in the heart of the city.

The photo above shows the top of the waterfall and the outlet of the channel. The bridge is located at the top of the outlet. The photo below is a view looking across the bridge. This view was taken through a chain link fence. The waterfall drops off to the right.

Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
These two photos are Bridge #4, a new bridge that was just installed in late 2006. It crosses the power plant intake canal and connects Main Street to Water Power Park, a park that sits on Hennepin Island in the middle of the river. This park was built by Xcel Energy, the former Northern States Power Company. They were required to submit a recreational use plan for the power plant area as part of the license process for the hydropower station. They came up with a fantastic plan to open this formerly off-limits area to the public. Xcel Energy states that there are two overlooks to the main falls, one that is spectacular, and another that is even better. The parked opened in June of 2007.

The photo above looks across the length of the bridge as seen from inside Water Power Park. The photo below is a view of Bridge #4 taken from Main Street. The mills on the Minneapolis side of the river are in the background. These mills have been rebuilt into office space, condos, and museums. There has been no operating mills in downtown Minneapolis for many years.

Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges
The photo above shows the walkway bridge (Bridge #2) that is located just in front of the power house spanning the outlet and spillway. The Hennepin Island power station is home to five hydropower generators. The image below is an aerial photo of the Saint Anthony side of the upper falls. The left side of the photo shows the power plant area, while the right side shows Father Hennepin Bluffs Park. The locations of the four powerplant area bridges are noted. There may be two more walkways and another bridge that cross Mississippi River water, but I would need somehow arrange a visit to the site to be sure.

Saint Anthony Falls Power Plant Bridges

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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