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Listening to the Song of Hiawatha at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Listening to the Song of Hiawatha at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota

One of my favorite things about Minneapolis is how green the city is.  There are many parks throughout the city, and as you fly into the airport it is hard to not notice how much water flows through the area.  There is a chain of lakes that dot the city, and it is easy to see how the city was built around the mighty Mississippi River.  Water is a part of Minneapolis, and if you want to seek out what makes the city unique, you have to spend time experiencing it.

Minnehaha Creek is just one of many creeks that run from a Minneapolis lake into the Mississippi.  However, the natural beauty of the 53 foot Minnehaha Falls in the middle of this otherwise urban setting makes this creek a destination worthy of your time.

Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis Minnesota

The history of the Falls and how it fits into the important piece of American Literature “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  just add to the reasons to visit.

Longfellow never visited the falls himself, but he was inspired to write the epic poem by traditional Ojibwa stories and a photo of the falls.  He named Hiawatha’s love interest “Minnehaha” and after the poem gained popular success, the waterfall became a tourist destination.  Is it a wonder why?  The name Hiawatha became a popular way to honor the Native American heritage of the Great Lake region.  You’ll find names of other Ojibwa characters of legend, like Nokomis, in the poem – and as a name of prominent Minneapolis streets. Girl at Minnehaha Creek Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” is a long, beautiful poem.  You can find the full text here.  Here’s an excerpt you may recognize:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

What is There to Do at Minnehaha Park?

Besides taking the time to relax and contemplate the natural beauty of the waterfall and the Native American tales that thanks to Longfellow will be forever linked with Minnehaha Falls, there are activities you and your family will enjoy.

Sleeping on a bridge in Minnehaha Park Minneapolis You can rent bikes and surreys on site during the summer and on the weekends in September and October. The park has lots of bike and pedestrian paths. There are also calm places in the creek where children often wade and a wading pool within the park. There are frequent outdoor concerts as well!

You could geek out on the limestone geology of the park, or identify the trees and flowers present throughout. Luke found a “super huge turtle!” (his words) and we spent some time playing with various caterpillars we found along the path.

Also, don’t skip out on seeing the Falls if you come in the winter.  It freezes over and it is beautiful, even though you might be a bit cold when you get out to see it!

How Do Get to Minnehaha Falls?

Minnehaha Park is conveniently on the Light Rail, which means it is easy to access from both the Mall of America area and Downtown Minneapolis even if you don’t have a car.

If you do have a car, parking is not free (Minneapolis charges for parking at almost every park in their system) but it is a quick trip from Downtown.


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Resource : Minneapolis Parks website

  1. Kim Orlando 20 August, 2013

    Just the name alone makes me smile MinneHAHA. I love to hike and had not put MN on my list. Adding now.

    • Amy Moore 20 August, 2013

      Ha! Yes, it is a fun name. Minnesota is a great place for outdoor family adventure. It doesn’t get too hot in the summer, and it is just gorgeous. More posts coming!

  2. Connie Resnik 20 August, 2013

    Such a pretty waterfall in a big city!

  3. Fiona Tierri 20 August, 2013

    I grew up hearing the name “Hiawatha” and the poem, but I didn’t know that it tied to a waterfall or had anything to do with the Great Lakes region. You learn something new every day!

    • Amy Moore 20 August, 2013

      Growing up in Texas, I hadn’t heard of the Ojibwa. We focused on the Navajo, Apache and other southwest tribes. But the Ojibwa have a fascinating history, and great stories. They shouldn’t be overlooked.

  4. Muza-chan 22 August, 2013

    Beautiful place…

  5. Sere@Light Of World Photography 22 August, 2013

    Oh wow look at that fall! My son and I were just there last October and it was literally a trickle. In fact my son was playing around on the ledge underneath where the falls are in your picture. Amazing how that works! I loved Minehaha, we were able to bicycle and we walked some of the trails there as well. Looks like you all had a fun time too!

    • Amy Moore 23 August, 2013

      Yeah, there was a lot of snow this year in the Midwest. Pretty sure it even snowed in May. The water was powerful!

  6. noel 22 August, 2013

    great story, insight and images – enjoyed reading your post

  7. Marcia 22 August, 2013

    We studied Longfellow in school and had to learn this poem.
    The falls are beautiful, even more so because of its location. Interesting that Longfellow never visited.

  8. budgetjan 22 August, 2013

    Gorgeous. Reminds me of a waterfall on the Atherton Tablelands in N.Q. Australia. It makes me feel cool (it is a little hot here at the moment). The circular rock opening at the falls makes me think of a volcanic crater.

  9. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} 24 August, 2013

    I can see why Longfellow was inspired, even by just a picture. The falls frozen over must be quite the sight!

  10. Marisol@TravelingSolemates 25 August, 2013

    Hi Amy, This is the first time I heard of Minnehaha Falls. It’s such a beautiful fall and the Longfellow connection is quite interesting. I can see through your lovely photo why he would be inspired. I wish I knew about this fall when I used to travel to Minneapolis for business trips. Such a shame bec it’s so accessible from Downtown.