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The the main road is blocked from car traffic, but you may walk on foot or use bicycles. Walking paths have been created and interpretive signs have been placed. It is wheelchair accessible. Please stay on the paths as restoration is taking place.
In terms of geologic and hydrographic history, the Upper Mississippi is a portion of the now-extinct Glacial River Warren which carved the valley of the Minnesota River, as it carried the melt water pouring from the immense Glacial Lake Agassiz between 11,800 and 9,200 years before the present (B.P.).Since that time, sand, silt, and clay have been filling the valley, forming a complex mosaic of landforms across the floodplain. The collapse of ice dams holding back Glacial Lake Duluth and Glacial Lake Grantsburg carved out the Dalles of the Saint Croix River just east of this location. "The Upper Mississippi River valley likely originated as an ice-marginal stream during what had been referred to as the “Nebraskan” glaciation.
The Upper Mississippi from below St. Anthony Falls) downstream to St. Paul, Minnesota is a gorge with high limestone bluffs carved by the waterfall. Upstream of the waterfall the land slopes gently to rivers edge. Downstream of downtown St. Paul the river enters its wide preglacial valley. The states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, along with the federal government, have preserved certain areas of the land along this reach of the river.
There are three National Park Service sites along the Upper Mississippi River. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is the National Park Service site dedicated to protecting and interpreting the Mississippi River itself. The other two National Park Service sites along the river are: Effigy Mounds National Monument and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (AKA The Arch). There are also county and city parks abutting and mingling with the designated lands.
The view from this site allows you to see two distinct River Valleys while down below the bluff you find the confluence of two mighty rivers that have their origins in this state. The plateau was once part of a wide sweeping savannah ecosystem.
Overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, Pilot Knob offers striking views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline and Fort Snelling State Park, Pilot Knob got its name in the 1850's when riverboat captains referenced this high point to pilot their boats up the Mississippi into the Minnesota River valley. Around that same time, Minnesota's first governor, Henry Sibley, climbed Pilot Knob's steep hill and waxed eloquently about the 'picturesque beauty' of the high, stone fort and the two river valleys. Pilot Knob, was an early 19th Century viewing point for such frontiersmen as Zebulon Pike and Josiah Snelling.
Long before Sibley arrived, Native Americans gathered to perform ceremonies on the site they called 'Oheyawahi' -'the hill much-visited.' Dakota Indians and European peoples both selected the hill as a place to honor and remember their dead. It was also from this prominence that the Dakota Indians in 1851 signed a treaty granting the United States 35 million acres of tribal lands west of the Mississippi, forever changing the course of Minnesota's history. Indians often insisted that agreements be signed there because it was the site "closer to the heavens".
Its majestic aura continues to impress visitors with the same peace that infused the Native Americans many years ago. The savannas of the Midwestern United States form a transition zone between the Great Plains to the west and the broadleaf and mixed forests to the east (the location of the pre-Columbian eastern savannas). Before European settlement, the savanna ecosystem was part of fire ecology. Fires, set by lightning or Native Americans, ensured that the savanna areas did not turn into forests. Only trees with a high tolerance for fire, were able to survive. These savanna areas provided habitat for a many grazing animals, including bison, elk and deer.
European settlers cleared much of the savanna for agricultural use. In addition, they suppressed the fire cycle. Thus surviving pockets of savanna typically became less like savannas and more like forests or thickets. Many savanna plant and animal species became extinct or rare.
In 2003 a 113-acre portion of Oheyawahi/ Pilot Knob was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places as a place of traditional importance to Dakota people and a geographic site significant for Minnesota's history. The nomination was approved by state agencies and forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington D.C. The City of Mendota Heights has contracted with Great River Greening, a nonprofit consulting firm, to manage the restoration efforts on the 25-acre site under a city contract. The plan is to restore the site to native prairie plantings and savanna by 2017.
To claim credit for this cache, please email the answers to the following three questions:
1. Which two rivers created the valleys you see stretching out before you?
2. What kind of savannah will be restored on this spot?
3. Pilot Knob is considered what kind of geological land mass? A) an Outcropping B) Plateau C) Glacial Moraine
What is the name of the Fort across the river on the other bluff?
Feel free to post your favorite views from this location.
The Great River Greeneing Project Management Plan for Pilot Knob can be found here (visit link)
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum