This is the sixth post on the Great River Road – Rollin Down the River tour. Biker Grandma and I are riding Harleys from the source of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca along the Great River Road to the Gulf of Mexico and sharing our story.
As you head down the Mississippi through the Twin Cities there is a dramatic change in both the level and type of activity on the river. From it’s source in Lake Itasca all the way to Minneapolis the Mississippi is mainly recreation oriented. In the Twin Cities there is an extensive parkway system along the river. Once you get to St. Paul the activity level on the river explodes. St. Paul is the northernmost port for most commercial traffic. The river just downstream of St. Paul is really a transportation hub with barge terminals, pipelines, railroads and the St. Paul Downtown airport right on the river.
One unique area in the river south of St. Paul is Grey Cloud Island. This island is a little bit of sanity in a crazy urban world. You have to cross a one lane bridge to get to the island. Riding the few roads on the island you realize that this is a rural oasis tucked into the greater twin cities area protected by the Mississippi River. The homes here for the most part have significant acreage and waterfront on both the Mississippi main channel and back water.
Just south of Grey Cloud Island starts a series of lock and dams operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. There are 27 lock and dams operated by the Corps of engineers to facilitate traffic on the Mississippi. These pictures are from Lock and Dam #2 just north of Hastings, MN. If you ever get a chance to watch the locks in operation do it. It is amazing to see how big the locks are and how quickly they are filled and emptied to keep boats and barges moving up and down stream.