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In 1680, a Belgian friar named Father Louis Hennepin discovered a thunderous 32-foot torrent of cascading water that he named St. Anthony Falls. This scenic waterfall was thus responsible for the birth of Minnesota's largest city. Today the falls are well contained by concrete and stone block as well as a series of dams. They can be viewed best from the Stone Arch Bridge or the observation deck of the Upper Lock and Dam.
This is one of the most spectacular urban delights of south Minneapolis. Winding its way from the south shore of Lake Harriet, Minnehaha Creek cuts a 5-mile path along 50th Street on its way to the Mississippi River. Picturesque Minnehaha Parkway, running parallel to the creek, is a splendid drive featuring lush gardens and large shade trees. The route can also be traversed by foot or bike via the trails. The culmination of the gurgling and bubbling creek as it rushes to meet the mighty Mississippi is the cascading splendor of Minnehaha Falls and 170-acre magnificent Minnehaha Park. One of the city's most-used stretches of parkland, it features several large picnic grounds, formal gardens, playing fields, hiking trails, and undeveloped natural areas. Four different staircases, made of local stone, lead from the uplands to various spots along the creek bottom. There they connect to a trail that follows the creek to its confluence with the river across from St. Paul's Hidden Falls Park. A separate paved trail connects the park to historic Fort Snelling State Park. Of special historical significance is the John H Stevens House Museum that was recently moved to park grounds south of the Falls.
Lake Nokomis is the southernmost of the lakes in the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. Connected to the other lakes via Minnehaha Creek, this popular scenic lake boasts a busy beach, comfortable picnic area and great urban fishing. Like the other lakes, Nokomis has its share of sailboats and canoes dotting the water. The 2.7 miles of paved paths invite walkers, joggers, bikers and inline skaters to leisurely travel its boundary. This lake seems to be especially popular with the high school crowd, perhaps due to its proximity to many family-populated neighborhoods.
Connected by a channel to the Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska is the largest of the five lakes comprising Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The lake attracts a younger crowd to the sandy beaches for volleyball, sunbathing and picnics. Walkers, in-line skaters and bikers proliferate on the three miles of paved paths circling the lake. Windsurfers, canoeists, kayakers and sailors fill the lake during the warmer months while ice fishing houses dot its frozen waters during the winter.
Travel half a mile south of Lake Calhoun on William Berry Parkway and you will find a lake that will make you wish summer were 12 months long. Named for the wife of Colonel Harry Leavenworth, the first commander of Fort Anthony (later named Fort Snelling), Lake Harriet is a lovely area consisting of sandy beaches, rose and rock gardens, a popular band shell and some of the city's most palatial homes. The Lake Harriet Trolley leaves from the lake's northwest curve, and Beards Plaisance, a large sheltered picnic area, occupies the southwest corner. The northwest shore is also home to the Lake Harriet Band Shell and refectory from which the Queen of the Lakes paddlewheel boat departs. The Lake Harriet Rose Garden, also known as Lyndale Park, located on the northeast corner of the lake, boasts some 250 different varieties of roses. This lovely sanctuary is a meticulously cared for and fragrant oasis of blooming flowers adjacent to a tranquil Japanese rock garden.