DNR cautions boaters to avoid Upper St. Anthony Falls dam
Portage route available for paddlers after June 10 lock closure
Mississippi River boaters and paddlers are reminded that as of Wednesday, June 10, the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock in downtown Minneapolis will permanently close. Boaters and paddlers should avoid approaching the area from upstream, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The lock closure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was supported by the DNR, as it will create an important barrier against the spread of invasive carp in the Mississippi River watershed.
However, boaters and paddlers are cautioned that the closure will affect navigation routes and safety conditions above Upper St. Anthony Falls and dam.
In light of these changed conditions, boaters and paddlers should avoid approaching the lock, dam and falls area from upstream. Due to strong currents above the upper falls and dam, paddlers especially need to avoid the area and should go no further downstream than Flagpole Plaza, just upstream of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge on the river’s west bank.
“The concern is that boaters and paddlers will navigate to the area above the dam only to discover they can no longer lock through,” said Stan Linnell, DNR boat and water safety manager.
“With the close proximity of the upper falls and dam to the lock, paddlers may have extreme difficulty moving back upstream due to strong currents above the dam, meaning they could be pulled over the dam into the dangerous recirculating currents below – a typically fatal situation,” Linnell said.
At a minimum, all watercraft must stay at least 600 feet above the dam, which is a designated restricted zone. However, Linnell recommends that, due to the potential for motor failure, boaters should give the upper falls area a wider berth.
Paddlers who wish to continue downstream may access a 1.5-mile paved portage route at Flagpole Plaza. Bohemian Flats, located below Lower St. Anthony Falls near the University of Minnesota’s pedestrian bridge, will serve as the downstream put-in location.
The nearest motorized boat access below Upper St. Anthony Falls is at Hidden Falls, below the Ford Lock and Dam 1 in St. Paul.
In addition to the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock closure, boaters and paddlers should be aware that starting Wednesday, June 10, the Lower St. Anthony Falls lock and Lock and Dam 1 will operate on a reduced schedule, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
As with Upper St. Anthony Falls, watercraft may not navigate within the 600-foot restricted zone above either dam or within the 150-foot zone below the dams. However, safety officials recommend boaters and paddlers avoid the short stretch of river between the upper and lower falls due to frequently turbulent conditions.
Any boaters or paddlers who are inadvertently caught in the strong current above a waterfall or dam should attempt to reach shore as soon as possible, and should not try to paddle across the current. The DNR strongly recommends that boaters and paddlers always wear a life jacket, especially when on water with strong currents, dams, or other inherently dangerous characteristics.
For more information about boating and water safety on the Mississippi River, including a map of the new portage route and the Metro Area Rivers Guide, visit www.mndnr.gov/boatingsafety, or call the DNR’s Boat and Water Safety Unit at 651-259-5400.