Three very different rivers are located in close proximity to the Macalester campus in St. Paul, MN. Most famous among them is the Mississippi River, whose banks are within a brisk 20-minute walk. The Mississippi figured centrally in the founding of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and continues to be a prime conduit for transportation of crops and goods, as well as for recreation. The most intensive development in both cities is occurring along the banks of the Mississippi as high-density residential construction affords both luxury lofts and low-income housing for Twin Cities residents. The Mississippi also serves as a major cultural focal point, especially as the National Park Service proceeds with the creation of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a network of urban and rural green spaces. Macalester also owns the Katherine Ordway Natural History Area, a 285 acre area on the Mississippi River.
The Minnesota River originates at the Minnesota-South Dakota border, flows 335 miles through some of the richest agricultural land in Minnesota, and joins the Mississippi River at Minneapolis and St. Paul. The river drains 16,770 square miles. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains a 9-foot-deep navigation channel in the lower 15 miles from Savage, MN to the Mississippi River confluence. In the same vicinity is the 14,000-acre Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the National Park Service. Since settlement, the native prairies adjoining the Minnesota have been replaced by agriculture with constructed drainage systems. Ninety percent of wetlands that existed before settlement have been drained. The Minnesota River contributes substantial sediment to the Mississippi River.
East of the Twin Cities and forming the boundary with Wisconsin, the St. Croix River offers a study in comparison to both the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was one of the original eight rivers to be protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. The 250 mile-long river flows through some of the least developed country in the Upper Midwest and is administered as part of the National Park Service (NPS).
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to Macalester College in July 2007 to support the development of the Three Rivers Center. The aim of Three Rivers Center is four-fold:
- to innovate, assess and refine curriculum that takes advantage of the diverse learning opportunities the Three Rivers offer;
- to extend conventional instruction into the field through field-based modules integrated into courses and through student-faculty research collaborations undertaken primarily in the summer;
- to upgrade existing instructional and research facilities and capacities to support the initiative; and to establish and upgrade the human infrastructure for learning, including the creation of long-term partnerships with community groups, academic entities and government.
Check out the article in the Macalester Today titled "Three Rivers Run Through It."
Click on map for larger view.
St. Croix River