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TBT: Turning Marshes into Lakes

June 23, 2016Patrick NunnallyThrowback ThursdayComments Off on TBT: Turning Marshes into Lakes

Last week’s Throwback Thursday featured a relatively detailed look at how land and water surfaces have been altered over time to make St. Paul’s riverfront a transportation hub.  Today I want to suggest that similar processes have taken place for water landscapes that have local, as opposed to regional and national, importance.  As the city of Minneapolis grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Minneapolis Park Board acquired land around many of the region’s lakes and creeks for the purposes of building a system of picturesque parks.  Park historian David Smith discusses the processes by which parkland was created around Lake Amelia (now Lake Nokomis) in a series of posts on the “Minneapolis Park History” blog.

Smith describes the extensive dredging and filling that created shorelines around the lake where before there had been reedy expanses of wetlands.


This 1939 aerial photo, made some 20 years after the shoreline work had begun, shows that the shoreland has been established for the most part, but that some parts in the distance still appear to be wetlands.

Image source Minnesota Historical Society.


With the passage of another 20 years, shore and beach formation appears to have progressed, and a tree canopy has begun to take shape.  Note also how the spread of residential development has approached the park.  From the 1880s beginnings of the Minneapolis Park Board, parks have always been seen as tools to spur development.

More to our point, the brief sketch here of Lake Nokomis’ formation illustrates how much “water landscapes” of the cities have been intentionally shaped through manipulation of both land and water surfaces.

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