What’s in a River: Editor’s Letter and TOC

Associate Editor Lydia Moran

On the summer solstice, our lovely marketing manager Amber took me on a paddle down the Mississippi River.

I’ve been living a few blocks from the river for over a year and have grown accustomed to walking along its banks in all seasons, feeling its presence even when I’m in my apartment. Once, I scrambled down the steep banks that line B.F. Nelson Park and spied a beaver casually swimming inches from the land where I squatted. As I’m writing now on a wooden overhang, insects are creating ripples on the slow green water, making me question if it’s raining.

But being in a kayak that day in June was another level of engagement with this powerful waterway, the fourth-largest river in the world. The current was gentle as we traveled from Anoka County Riverfront Regional Park to Boom Island. Amber shared factoids about the river in her role as a guide with Paddle Bridge Kayak Tours.

The theme of this issue — River Stories — might be redundant. To me, rivers are the physical embodiment of story.

A river’s headwaters empty into another body after they are completely transformed. For 20 years, Sharon M. Day has been honoring that fact by gathering headwaters in a copper pail and walking them — sometimes for thousands of miles — to the mouth of the river. Those who participate in these ceremonial water walks, drawn from ancestral Ojibwe practices, want the water to remember how it began — “pure and clean” — before it encountered man-made pollutants.

Gabby Menomin at Wakan Tipi Awanyankapi is working to daylight Phalen Creek, a waterway that has been entombed in a storm pipe under Saint Paul for almost 100 years. Because it is underground, pollutants from road runoff flow down the creek directly into the Mississippi without the purifying process that natural creeks provide. Resurrecting the creek will allow the water to be cleaned by the rich ecosystem Menomin is reintroducing into the area — an environment that will serve as a point of connection between indigenous communities, surrounding neighborhoods, and the water.

In Minneapolis, Devin A. Brown is training to become the first Black woman to kayak the length of the Mississippi River. As part of her journey, she’s working to connect people in North Minneapolis back to the water that her community has been systematically cut off from, partly in hopes that some will join her along her travels.

In the midst of the climate crisis, the stories in this issue reconnect us with the natural world.

On the solstice, Amber shared that before 2015, barges traversed the Mississippi north of Saint Paul, and as a result, the river water quality in the Twin Cities was rated “D.” In the nearly ten years since the Upper Saint Anthony Falls Lock and Dam ceased operation, natural cleaning processes and some human assistance have improved the water quality to a “B” — some of the best in the world. Only streams that are likely drinkable are rated “A.”

After hearing that, I went swimming in the river for the first time in years near Nicollet Island at dusk. I felt the sandbank recede and the cool mystery of the dark water below my feet. I felt a story.

Table of Contents

Turtle Island— Walking for the Water

Ecolution — Healing With the Land

In the News — Threat to Saint Anthony Falls, Boathouses, Tribal Water Settlements

Sports & Adventure — Source to Sea, Safely

Greater MinnesotaFly-Fishing Opened My Eyes

Education — “We Are Water” Flows Through Minnesota

Healing — Come Inside the Healing Hut

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