Because I’ve lived in Minneapolis the past 27 years — after growing up in that great city of the east, St. Paul — I was somewhat startled that I could still experience a new aspect of the Mississippi River as it flows through downtown.
After stumbling onto guide Theo Burns leading visitors from Australia and Florida on a kayak tour Sunday, I followed them from shore as they began by donning headlamps and then headed upstream on Bassett’s Creek from where it flows into the Mississippi River.
This serene and secluded channel just below West River Parkway belies the fact that the bustling North Loop is just steps away. The channel is crossed by not one but two pedestrian bridges, and there is a small maze of paths where one can take a short hike and see wildlife. All without a building anywhere in sight.
Directly across the river from this spot, at Boom Island Park (724 NE. Sibley St.), the illusion of an oasis is a little harder to conjure, but it’s there if you want to look.
On a hillside just 100 yards or so from the parking lot is a planting of wildflowers that was like a farmers market for the bees that were busy pollinating the goldenrod Sunday afternoon. At ground level on the hill — a great evening picnic spot — the foreground is a dominated by the bright, yellow goldenrod and birdsfoot trefoil against the backdrop of downtown Minneapolis’ three tallest buildings, looming large just across the river.
Just downriver, below historic Main Street, sits Father Hennepin Bluffs Park (420 SE. Main St.) and its network of small trails, another area of peace and quiet even though the St. Anthony neighborhood immediately above bustled with the activity of a sunny Sunday afternoon.