Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The poetry of Minnesota rivers January 15, 2021

An overview of the Cannon River and the dam photographed from the river walk by the Rice County Fairgrounds/North Alexander Park.

RIVERS, STRONG AND MIGHTY, flow through our state. The Mississippi. The Minnesota. And here in my county of Rice, the Cannon and Straight Rivers.

Up close to the Cannon River on a January afternoon. Initially, I thought this pair was fishing. They were, instead, playing beside the river.

Here, on these waters, early inhabitants traveled via canoe, traded along river banks, built flour and woolen mills. And formed communities like Faribault, Northfield, Dundas and Morristown, all with waterways that run through.

Randy walks on the river walk under the bridge spanning the Cannon River along Second Avenue in Faribault. The river is to his right.

Rivers are as much about nature as they are about our history. Like railroads, they helped to shape our towns and cities. And today, while no longer of the same utilitarian use, they remain valuable assets.

Many picnic shelters grace Faribault’s riverside parks.

In my community of Faribault, the Cannon and Straight Rivers, which converge at Two Rivers Park, enhance our local outdoor spaces. The Straight winds through River Bend Nature Center and near city recreational trails. The Cannon spills over three separate dams and flows alongside North and South Alexander Parks and Father Slevin Park. The historic, and still operating, Faribault Woolen Mill sits next to the river, too, by the appropriately named Woolen Mill Dam.

Water rushes over rocks and through ice at the dam by Father Slevin Park.

I am naturally drawn to water, as I expect many of you are. There’s something about water—its power, its motion, its almost hypnotic quality, its soothing sound when rushing over rocks. It’s like poetry flowing into the land.

I stood on the narrow dam walkway to photograph water rushing over the dam on the Cannon River.

Even in the depth of winter, a river—whether iced over or still running—draws me near. To listen, like poetry read aloud. To view, like words of verse written upon paper. To photograph, like an artist and poet and writer who cares. And I do.

Water rushes over the dam along the Cannon River in Faribault.

To walk or pause beside a river is to appreciate art and history and nature. I feel connected to the rivers that trace like poetry through the landscape of southern Minnesota. My home. My place of peace and contentment when I walk beside the waters therein.

TELL ME: Do you have a favorite river? If so, please share why you appreciate this waterway.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “The poetry of Minnesota rivers”

  1. MN has some beautiful rivers 🙂 A favorite of mine is in the area of Fort Snelling with the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers come together. Mr. Craves and I had a few dates at Fort Snelling hiking as well as toured the Fort and even got married at the Chapel. I have hiked as well as biked in various places that run along the Mississippi river and probably one of the craziest memories was stand up jet skiing on the Mississippi. Happy Weekend – Enjoy!

  2. valeriebollinger Says:

    Nice photos Audrey. I think it’s special to live in a town with a river running through it.

  3. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Having grown up in Faribault, leaving the early 60s, but returning often with many connections and now in my senior years not so much, I just hope youth are educated on the naturalness and beauty of Faribault, but really southern MN. You do report and photograph them beautifully, but learning some basics of geography are essential. ex: I “lived” by a “section” of the Straight River, we swam in Cannon Lake, made absolutely no connection of the Cannon River, it’s connections to Northfield or Owatonna. I had to do genealogy to discover the Straight River was actually straightened to accommodate the railroad. There are aerials now with the drones, understanding and teaching the lay of the land is so much easier. The RCHS programs didn’t exist in my era, or for sure Mother would have had me there. I knew the East Side, down 3rd St. to the 1915 h.s. building, the way to Trinity and swimming lessons in Roberds Lake. Really all of southern MN town areas are such gems. I think it’s reflected in the many comments on that FB page with 6000 folks from many eras. What we don’t think about. Embarrassing. It’s changed. Nature’s beauty hasn’t.

    • I think of that often, how the course of the Straight River was changed in Faribault. I wish that hadn’t happened because our downtown would then sit along the river bank and add much to the beauty of the downtown. But what was done was done. The city is now focusing on developing the land near the viaduct into a park as well as an area further down. Finally. We need showcase these highly-visible spots of natural beauty and to protect them, railroad nearby or not. I love the Virtues Trail near the track and the river.

  4. Geri Lawhon Says:

    Frozen or unfrozen these are wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Lovely photos, Audrey. The first one does remind me a bit of the photo I posted today.

  6. The Kettle River and the St Croix.

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