Minnesota River Virtual Tour - Confluence


Stop 11 - Confluence with Mississippi near St. Paul (River Mile 0)
Confluence of Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers Photo: MPCA Barges near the confluence Photo: John Cross
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The last 15 miles of the Minnesota River are a multi-million dollar transportation route as grain-heavy barges are pushed to the Mississippi. We had to dodge barge traffic.The barges serve the major grain terminal in ports in Savage, including Cargill, Continental, Harvest States and Bunge. Canoeing down river, we passed Fort Snelling on the bluff above the Mississippi River and the St. Paul skyline loomed into view.
While most of the river journey flows through more rural settings, as it nears the confluence with the Mississippi River, the river flows through a more densely settled urban landscape. You can hear highway traffic sounds, jets taking off and landing at the airport, the loud diesel engines of barges. The last stretch is busy with barge and tugboat traffic. You pass under many bridges and by more industrial development.

Water Quality
The photo above illustrates the Minnesota River joining the Mississippi River. You can easily see the sediment-laden Minnesota River water. Studies have indicated that the Minnesota River is a major source of pollution to the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, the Minnesota River has been cited as one of the state's most polluted rivers. Considerable attention and support has been given to clean up efforts. People are working across the basin to try to improve water quality.

Some people say that rivers are a mirror of the landscape: that activities in the watershed are reflected in the water quality of the river. Water flows across the agricultural, rural, and urban landscapes within the basin and drains into the river. Many water quality challenges relate to land uses—including trying to minimize agricultural runoff and urban point-source discharges.
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