Opened in 2007, this 1.4-acre park, at the east end of the Mississippi River’s Saint Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis, encompasses an open green space by the Hennepin Island Hydroelectric Project, a twelve-megawatt generating station that opened in 1908 and still operates. The upstream part of Hennepin Island had long been closed to the public. In the early twenty-first century, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) required the electric utility (NSP/Xcel Energy) to provide “project-related recreational enhancements.” The company complied by developing the island’s upper end into Water Power Park.
Owned by Xcel Energy, managed by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, and included in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, the park was developed by an interdisciplinary team led by Barr Engineering, in close consultation with Xcel staff. The landscape design and interpretive panel graphics were by landscape architect Simonet Design LLC; Hess, Roise and Company, historical consultants, planned and implemented site interpretation.
Because the island forms part of the dam that blocks the Mississippi at Saint Anthony Falls, plans for the park faced constraints. No trees could be planted, and only limited landscape improvements were allowed to ensure the dam’s physical integrity. To enrich the visitor experience, more than a dozen interpretive nodes were created. Most focus on the role of the falls and hydroelectricity in the city’s evolution. An overlook at the east end of the falls offers a broad vista and highlights the area’s significance for the Native peoples who lived here before Euro-American settlement in the mid-1800s and continue to honor the falls today.