Behind Minnehaha’s Frozen Falls

14 January 2013

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Minnehaha Creek in Minnesota would be just another creek, really, if it was not for the beautiful fifty foot waterfall that just happened to form there when the last glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago. In the winter the falls can freeze up completely, creating a magical motionless image of once liquid water frustrated by the elements. Yet there is more to it than meets the eye...

Minnehaha is thought by many to mean laughing waters but that would simply be too good a semantic serendipity to be true.  In fact the name is made up of elements from the Dakota language.  A haha in Dakotan is a waterfall – and minne (from mni) means water itself. So, if you want a complete translation of Minnehaha Falls then it would be Water Waterfall Falls – which does have a certain if repetitive ring to it.

Yet Minnehaha Falls has a secret which is revealed towards the end of winter.  As the frozen waterfall begins to melt, holes appear in the sheets of ice which reveal something if not extraordinary, then very cool indeed (both metaphorically and literally).  Minnehaha is an overhang waterfall, which means there is an air space behind the falling water. And behind that air space there is a small cave.

Image Credit Flickr User NES & MJH
It is something of a feat of daring to reach the cave but it is reachable by the brave or foolhardy (whichever way you look upon it).  There, as the spring thaw begins, an almost momentary marvel made of ice can be beheld.

Image Credit Flickr User Neural Vibrance
Image Credit Flickr User sankax
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
John Keats wrote: A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness. The water remains - just in an altered state.

Image Credit Flickr User MJIPhotos
First Image Credit Flickr User akahadog

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