This 29-acre park, located in a floodplain on the Mississippi River’s north shore, is just east of downtown St. Paul. The site includes several different ecosystems including floodplain forest, dry prairie, oak savannah, bluff prairie, oak woodland and spring-fed streams and wetlands. Originally a Dakota settlement, the park contains a cave known as "Wakan Tipi" (Spirit House) and is situated under sacred burial mounds along the bluff in Indian Mounds Regional Park. Early European explorers describe the cave (known for many years as "Carver's Cave” and now inaccessible) as having extensive petroglyphs.
After European settlement, the area became increasingly industrialized, and the railroads covered much of the land; the park abuts the remaining railroad right-of-way. In the late 1990s a group of volunteers that became the Lower Phalen Creek Project (LPCP) put forth a vision for a nature sanctuary and began the work of reclaiming the area. Clean-up of the heavily polluted land was followed by the acquisition of the property by the city. The park opened to the public in 2005 and is named for U.S. Congressman Bruce Vento, a St. Paul native and author of a law that created the Mississippi National River and Recreational Area. Work has since been focused on removing invasive plants, restoring the oak savannah and native plant communities, and establishing walking trails and interpretive signage. The nature sanctuary is connected to a larger trail network throughout the Twin Cities and is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.