Lake Minnetonka’s Gift: Minnehaha Creek

“In the heart of Minnetonka you can find solitude and a connection between earth and sky, if you seek it”.

 

Photos and text by Dale Antonson

Minnehaha headwaters canoe launch at Gray's Bay Dam.

Minnehaha headwaters canoe launch at Gray’s Bay Dam.

If you live in Minnetonka and have yet to experience the serenity of paddling along the first few miles of Minnehaha Creek, I would like to share with you a little about this treasure that flows right through the heart of our community.

Minnehaha Creek begins at the Gray’s Bay Dam on the east side of Lake Minnetonka.  Here it begins its south-eastward journey 22 miles to the Mississippi River.   The first 2.5 miles of the creek, from the headwaters to the canoe landing at the historic Burwell House, offer the floating visitor opportunities to observe nature from the quiet waters that flow through mostly undeveloped wetlands and forested landscapes.

The Gray's Bay dam with an eagle searching for food in a dead elm tree.

The Gray’s Bay dam with an eagle searching for food from the branch of a dead elm tree.

Visiting is best between spring and summer, from the time the winter ice starts to melt in April to the warmer month of June. During this time,water’s flow is faster and the aquatic weeds won’t be an issue (later in the summer, paddling is impeded by both). A couple of hours are all that’s needed to escape into this serenity.  I encourage you to take your time and paddle at a leisurely pace.  As the Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu wrote many years ago, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Looking east and downstream from the headwaters.

Looking east and downstream from the headwaters.

Parking at the Gray’s Bay Dam is really limited so it’s a good idea to arrange for someone who can drop you off with your canoe or kayak and pick you up later at your final destination. A good map of the creek is available here:   Minnehaha Creek Canoe map.pdf.  If you plan on continuing beyond the canoe landing at the Burwell House, where the creek becomes faster and difficult to navigate for the novice, it will be important to be aware of the current flow rate of the water through the Gray’s Bay Dam during your visit.  Water flow rates higher than 150 cubic feet per second are considered dangerous and the rapids should be avoided.  The current flow rate of the creek can be found at: Gray’s Bay Dam Flow Rate

leopardFrog

A leopard frog hoping to escape notice.

If you don’t have access to a canoe, The City of Minnetonka provides a canoe rental and shuttle service on weekends during May and June for 2 to 3-hour-long trips from the headwaters to the canoe landing at Hopkins Crossroads.  You can access information on this service at:  Minnetonka’s Canoe Minnehaha Creek. Participants register in advance and will meet the shuttle van at a reserved time at the ice arena behind Minnetonka City Hall at the ice arena.  From there, a van will drop participants off at the headwaters with any necessary gear and pick them up later at the designated location for return to their vehicles.

Yellow Water Iris

Yellow water iris in full bloom, concealing a muskrat lodge (Late May).

 

6

A beautiful egret plays “hide-and-go-seek” with those who paddle quietly and respect others’ privacy.

 

5

A sweeping bend in the creek, with the wide open sky and cattails, quickly gives way to the unexpected landing at Jidana Park.

 

7

The Jidana Park canoe landing is the first of many along the creek. This gem of Oak Savanna offers a delightful park to explore and have a picnic.

In the heart of Minnetonka you can find solitude and a connection between earth and sky, if you seek to find it.

In the heart of Minnetonka you can find solitude and a connection between earth and sky, if you seek to find it.

 

Bridge near the Ice area

Around a couple more bends you come upon this pedestrian bridge. It’s in close proximity to another canoe landing located on the north side of the Minnetonka City Hall acreage.

10

A Great Blue Heron stands quietly, hoping to avoid notice.

 

Can you see the wildlife community here?  A mud turtle, snapping turtle, egret and Canada goose delighting in the day.

Can you see the wildlife community here?
A mud turtle, snapping turtle, egret and Canada goose delighting in the day.

 Our author/photographer, along with his dog called “Jessie Joy the Happiness Consultant,” are doing something they love that connects them with nature.

The author/photographer, along with his dog called “Jessie Joy the Happiness Consultant,” are doing something they love that connects them with nature.

Relax, slow down, float away and discover something new this spring at the headwaters of Minnehaha Creek. Many hidden treasures await you there.

If you’d like to see more of Dale Antonson’s nature photographs, you’re invited to his exhibit of nature scenes at the Off the Wall gallery at the Hopkins Center For The Arts, from May 13 through June 9, 2014. The show is titled This Garden We Live In.

(All photographs were taken by a Casio EX-Z90)

Reader, Dewey Hassig shared the following comment:
“I won’t be canoeing this spring. My canoe is upside down on a rack on the back of my garage, and a Cardinal has made it’s nest on the seat. At least that Cardinal has a dry spot to nest.”

This entry was posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Notes. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Lake Minnetonka’s Gift: Minnehaha Creek

  1. barbara goodman-fischtrom says:

    Wow, thank you for this beautiful voyage down the creek. Is there a place that rents canoes?

  2. barbara goodman-fischtrom says:

    no need to answer, I just googled it. Thanks again for the beauty and adventure.barbara

  3. Jed Krauss says:

    beautiful photos

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