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Here is a historical timeline of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (by year only). Use your mouse to drag the timeline to the left by clicking and holding in the white space above the years. Click each bubble for more information. View a larger timeline here.  


Timeline (Text Version):

  • 1803 - The land that includes the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is purchased from France in the Louisiana Purchase.
  • 1805 - A military fort, eventually named Fort Snelling, is established on land acquired from the Dakota tribe.
  • 1822 - Teenagers Joseph Brown and William Snelling make the first trip up the Minnehaha Creek, naming it Brown’s Creek, and reach Lake Minnetonka.
  • 1852 - Minnetonka Mill is built 2.5 miles downstream from Lake Minnetonka by Simon Stevens (brother of Minneapolis founder John Stevens), Calvin Tuttle, James Shaver. The mill made the creek navigable for that stretch.
  • 1854 - A gristmill is built at the present-day 50th Street and Lyndale Avenue. It drew settlers from more than 50 miles away to grind grain into flour and created a burgeoning Richfield Township.
  • 1855 - Fort Ridgely Territorial Road opens the first safe travel from Minneapolis to Wayzata. Five years later a side-wheel paddleboat launches to carry passengers, mail and goods throughout the lake. Another six years later, the first rail line to Wayzata is built, making travel to the lake convenient.
  • 1855 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Song of Hiawatha” makes Minnehaha Falls famous and a tourist destination. An excerpt: In the land of the Dacotahs,/Where the Falls of Minnehaha/Flash and gleam among the oak-trees,/Laugh and leap into the valley./There the ancient Arrow-maker/Made his arrow-heads of sandstone,/Arrow-heads of chalcedony,/Arrow-heads of flint and jasper,/Smoothed and sharpened at the edges,/Hard and polished, keen and costly./With him dwelt his dark-eyed daughter
  • 1897 - Dam built on Gray’s Bay to control water levels of the lake and creek. Hennepin County condemned the Minnetonka Mill after the owner would not sell and moved it 2.5 miles upstream. The dam slowed the creek and effectively shut down all downstream mills (like Richfield and Edina), which couldn’t compete with those tapping into St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis.
  • 1906 - An amusement park is built on Lake Minnetonka’s Big Ilsand, featuring a 200 foot water tower. It would be closed by 1911.
  • 1955 - Recognizing the value of Minnesota waterways and surrounding natural areas, the Minnesota Legislature passes the Watershed District Act. The act authorized the creation of local government units called watershed districts. The districts were created to help manage the entire land area from which rain and snowmelt drain to lakes, streams, or wetlands. As outlined by the Act, watershed districts use scientific principles to develop successful ways to manage and improve water quality, prevent flood damage.
  • 1966 - An ice-choked Minnehaha Creek floods Minneapolis neighborhoods, spurring interest in a Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
  • 1967 - MCWD established by Hennepin and Carver Counties. Their goals included improving lakes, marshes and channels for water storage, drainage, recreation and other public purposes. The counties also wanted projects to reduce flooding, to keep silt out of streams and to control erosion of land. Other goals were reclaiming wetlands, controlling stormwater and preserving water quality in the District’s lakes and streams. The watershed consists of 181 square miles located in all or portions of 27 cities.
  • 1975 - MCWD completes a groundbreaking, federally-funded wetland study to evaluate how well wetlands treat urban stormwater runoff. The results were published by the U.S. EPA and became a national guidance document used in managing urban stormwater runoff. A 7-acre wetland in Wayzata with a 70-acre drainage area was used for the study. It retained 77 percent of all phosphorus and 94 percent of total suspended solids during the evaluation period, showing the effectiveness of wetlands.
  • 1979 - Gray’s Bay is improved at the request of five downstream communities with flooding issues. An outlet control structure was added to release water at a controlled rate from May to November. The District also added a paved parking lot, picnic facilities, toilets, bike racks and a canoe landing.
  • 1980 - MCWD completes recreational improvements along the creek, constructing canoe landings, parking areas, picnic and sanitary facilities, bike racks, wildlife ponds, and more.
  • 1986 - MCWD finishes closing eight sewage treatment plants that emptied 3 million gallons of treated wastewater into Lake Minnetonka per day. All  the plants were replaced by the Blue Lake Treatment Plant in Shakopee. This meant about 33,000 fewer pounds of phosphorus in the lake each year.
  • 1995 - MCWD finishes the Gleason Creek Improvement Project, building a new outlet control structure on Gleason Lake, a stormwater pond, and enhancing a wetland at the inlet to the lake. The project significantly improved flood control on Gleason Lake and improved water quality in Lake Minnetonka.
  • 1996 - MCWD undertook a long-term project in partnership with the city of St. Louis Park, the city of Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) to improve the water quality in the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The project specifically focused on stormwater management in the Twin Lakes Subwatershed to improve the water quality of Cedar Lake.
  • 1997 - MCWD helps restoring a wetland at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The site’s hydrology was restored by breaking the network of drain tiles below the soil surface. Native plant species were planted in the wetland basin. A boardwalk and interpretive trail constructed within the basin to provide access to the 20-acre wetland for close viewing and plant identification.
  • 1999 - MCWD finishes a large-scale project at the southwest corner of Lake Calhoun. The project was part of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership Project, the largest urban lake restoration in the country. The District installed a three-cell wetland pond to treat stormwater runoff.
  • 2005 - A Vision for the Creek Project: “Choosing Our Future: Minnehaha Creek 2054,” a 50-year plan for the Minnehaha Creek, is completed. MCWD conducted a series of public meetings and partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Hennepin County, the cities of Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Edina and Minneapolis, a citizens' group, and a group of local elected officials to complete the report.
  • 2006 - The Gray's Bay Dam was upgraded in 2006.
  • 2009 - In 2008, the City of Orono, the state and MCWD pitched in to buy the 56-acre eastern third of Big Island. The partners decided to return the portion of the island to a passive, natural state for the public to enjoy. The District worked to restore about 3,000 feet of severely eroded shoreline to enhance water quality in Lake Minnetonka.
  • 2009 - The District returns a stretch of Minnehaha Creek in St. Louis Park to its natural meander, reversing nearly a decade of industrial straightening of the creek. The project re-meandered the creek, restored habitat, and added a boardwalk and walking trail. Research shows that patients recover more quickly when they are able to experience the outdoors while healing.
  • 2011 - The District makes a landmark purchase of a 17-acre property in Hopkins that sits along 1,000 feet of shoreline in one of the most degraded sections of Minnehaha Creek. MCWD plans to restore the shoreline, intercept runoff before it enters the creek, and open up the area to the public. It will demolish the existing building and sell a bulk of the land for re-development.
  • 2013 - MCWD, in partnership with the Freshwater Society, begins a new clean water educational resource for local communities: The Master Water Stewards program. In addition to educating their neighbors about reducing runoff, the Master Water Stewards work on runoff prevention projects, such as rain gardens and water-permeable driveways. They also coordinate community activities such as leaf and grass clean-ups to reduce runoff.
  • 2013 - Halsted Bay water quality is among the worst in the District due in part to excessive nutrients. To improve water quality in the area, MCWD purchased the 112-acre Halverson and 97-acre Dimler farms in Minnetrista. The properties drain into Six Mile Marsh and Creek shortly before they enter Halsted Bay. The District restored prairie and oak savanna to reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering Halstead Bay.
  • 2014 - The wettest Twin Cities spring on record caused historically high water levels on lakes and streams across the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Lake Minnetonka reached an all-time high of 931.11 feet above sea level on Monday, June 23 and spent 45 consecutive days above the pre-2014 all-time high of 930.52.
  • 2015 - The Preserve features 2,200 feet of boardwalk and 4,600 feet of paved trail around a restored stretch of Minnehaha Creek between Meadowbrook Avenue and Louisiana Avenue in St. Louis Park. It is the cornerstone of the Minnehaha Greenway, a stretch of more than 50 acres of continuous green space constructed or planned for construction along Minnehaha Creek.
  • 2015 - Cottageville Park was a partnership between MCWD, City of Hopkins, the Blake Road Corridor Collaborative and the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Fund. It is part of the Minnehaha Greenway. It features stormwater management that improves water quality in the creek, while providing a 5 acre park that reduces crime, provides community amenities, and improves habitat.
  • 2017 - 2017 marks MCWD's 50th anniversary.

  • 2018 - MCWD's 10-year Watershed Management Plan is adopted with a focus on balanced urban ecology.

  • 2018 - MCWD began a 10-year effort to improve water quality in the Six Mile Creek - Halsted Bay Subwatershed. The first strategy is invasive common carp management, partially funded by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Carp stir up lake bottoms, release phosphorus, and destroy habitat for gamefish and waterfowl. Managing their numbers will restore 14 lakes throughout the area's chain of lakes.

  • 2018 - Demolition of the cold storage facility at 325 Blake Road in Hopkins began during the summer of 2018 and ended at the end of 2018. MCWD will use a portion of the site for stormwater treatment and habitat restoration. The remaining acres will be sold for redevelopment.

  • 2018 - The restoration of Arden Park in Edina began at the end of 2018.