Both bladders and appetites for history will be served this summer at Upper St. Anthony Falls this summer, thanks to a local historian's persistence.
The visitor center deck at the lock and dam will open to the public on May 28 and remain open through Labor Day weekend. Hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
That's according to John Anfinson, a historian of the river who also happens to be superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, the Twin Cities area unit of the National Park Service. He worked out an agreement with the center's owner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to make the visitor center available despite the closing of the navigational lock last year.
Although the locks themselves are viewable from the Stone Arch Bridge, the visitor center expands on the limited history available at bridge displays It also offers the only bathrooms for blocks.
The continued use of the visitor center was threatened by the lock's closure. But Anfinson made it his goal to reopen the facility. He was uniquely qualified to broker the deal, having worked as a historian for both agencies. The center will be staffed by his agency. Half-hour tours of the lock will be offered at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and limited to 20 people per tour.
The visitor center contains corps displays that cover the history of the falls area, the role of the corps in preventing the loss of the falls, the development of the locks, and how the locks operated. Anfinson wrote much of the text years ago as a corps historian.
The lock at 1 Portland Av. closed last June 10. The closing was mandated by Congress after it was lobbied by activists who oppose the spread of invasive carp up the river. They also want to see the upper riverfront of Minneapolis converted from current industrial uses to business parks, housing, and public access similar to the trails and parkway that line the riverfront downriver.
(Photo above: The last bargeload of cargo moving through the Upper St. Anthony Lock in 2015. The visitor center and observation deck are in the background. Staff photo by Brian Peterson. Right: John Anfinson. Staff photo by Glen Stubbe.) )