Gita and I went for a drive today around town, taking her sister-in-law for the nickel tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul. We got out of the car near St. Anthony Falls to see the falls at their flood-swollen best.
There is a new walkway/mini-park which makes it possible to get closer to the falls now than was possible in the past (at least legally) it's accessibly from the St. Anthony Main area, and blends in with the old electrical generation infrastructure.
The falls didn't disappoint. They were awesome. We are still at major flood stage in St. Paul, and the falls in Minneapolis were literally raging- foam and steam boiling up high into the air. The power of the water was amazing, and reading little snippets of the signs near the falls, I wondered why we don't still try to make some use of the power of the falls- for electricity or to turn turbines for milling. The falls have been so heavily engineered that they hardly resemble what they were 160 years ago, there may as well as be some good that comes from them.
That said, one of my fantasies is to see the St. Anthony Falls restored to it's natural state. Seeing it today, in its altered form, I can only imagine how incredible it must have been originally.
This isn't a recent change though. The falls were first messed with in the 1840's to power lumber mills, and if I remember right, it was the excavation of a tunnel in the the 1870's to create a channel to divert water to a mill off of the river that collapsed, and created a vortex that rapidly began to erode away the falls. The Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and created the concrete-capped geometric dual falls seen today. (This is my best recollection from a Geography class taken almost 20 years ago. If you want facts- google it)
Imagine what a natural waterfall roaring like a smaller version of Niagra falls in the heart of downtown Minneapolis would be like now. It's a bit of a pipe dream, but I figure I have 50 years left if I'm lucky and maybe I'll see it in my lifetime.