MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Upper St. Anthony Falls lock and dam will open to visitor traffic this weekend — but in a new way.
It’s been two years since any traffic on the water navigated through it after its 2015 closure.
Lockmaster Mike DeRusha’s workload all but dropped to a weekly visit.
“Very quiet,” DeRusha said. “It’s kind of sad in a way because we used to get a lot of people that would go through here.”
But the crowds will be able to return this weekend.
“It is kind of a treasure, it’s kind of a jewel in the middle of the city,” DeRusha said. “You stand here and you look around and you know if you go to the Stone Arch Bridge or the Guthrie, you’re watching the lock. Now you have a chance to see it and get on it.”
Visitors can tour the facility seven days a week with the help of the National Park Service.
“Keeping this public space is important,” said Park Ranger Dan Dressler. “I think as Minneapolis thinks about what the next steps of the lock and dam is, that people getting here and seeing what it’s like will make a better decision in the future.”
Rangers like Dressler will provide a tour highlighting the history of the falls and its infrastructure.
“It’s far and away the largest lift of any lock and dam on the river itself,” Dressler said.
Few areas are off limits. The tour takes visitors to the inner and outer lock wall.
“It was a 49-foot lift when we were operational and it was huge,” DeRusha said.
Visitors also get to cross the miter gates which still occasionally open for maintenance.
“Locks and dam are really interesting engineering structures,” Dressler said. “The lock is still here, and even though it’s not being used for navigation purposes, it’s still here and still a great piece of river infrastructure with a fascinating history.”
The lock and dam offered public tours last summer as a pilot project, and an estimated 15,000 people came out.
The visitor center will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, rain or shine.
The tours are free, and they take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on a first-come-first-served basis.