Photo of Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Weekly Gem #160 Laugh and leap into the valley

Published 5/5/2018

Location:  This hidden gem is located in Minnehaha Regional Park, Minneapolis, MN, almost half a mile up the Creek from Minnehaha’s confluence with the Mississippi River (see the Clue Me! Map). Minnehaha Falls is worth a visit most any time of year. In early Spring, as ice and snow recedes, the intense outpouring is a welcome sight to those suffering from Cabin Fever. The falls change over the summer and autumn, losing intensity, but not beauty. Even in the winter, the ice flows that form are delightful to observe.

Of course, a picture can inspire 1000 words (or 34,750 in the case of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). A photo of this waterfall was seen by Longfellow (in Boston), where he set to work on his epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha. Although they have a crucial role in his poem, Longfellow never visited the Falls in person. Nevertheless, the poem is nearly as entrancing as the falling water.

Early in the poem, Hiawatha traveled from Lake Superior to the Pacific Northwest to do battle. On his return, he stopped to restock his supply of arrowheads, where he first encountered Minnehaha.

Only once his pace he slackened, Only once he paused or halted, Paused to purchase heads of arrows Of the ancient Arrow-maker, In the land of the Dacotahs, Where the Falls of Minnehaha Flash and gleam among the oak-trees, Laugh and leap into the valley. ... With him dwelt his dark-eyed daughter, Wayward as the Minnehaha, With her moods of shade and sunshine, Eyes that smiled and frowned alternate, Feet as rapid as the river, Tresses flowing like the water, And as musical a laughter; And he named her from the river, From the water-fall he named her, Minnehaha, Laughing Water.

Minnehaha married Hiawatha, and traveled with him to his home near Lake Superior. Life was good until the tragic year of Famine and Fever.

Into Hiawatha's wigwam Came two other guests, as silent As the ghosts were, and as gloomy, Waited not to be invited Did not parley at the doorway Sat there without word of welcome In the seat of Laughing Water; Looked with haggard eyes and hollow At the face of Laughing Water. And the foremost said: "Behold me! I am Famine, Bukadawin!" And the other said: "Behold me! I am Fever, Ahkosewin!"

As Famine and Fever claimed her, the Falls of her childhood called to her.

In the wigwam with Nokomis, With those gloomy guests that watched her, With the Famine and the Fever, She was lying, the Beloved, She, the dying Minnehaha. "Hark!" she said; "I hear a rushing, Hear a roaring and a rushing, Hear the Falls of Minnehaha Calling to me from a distance!" ... And the desolate Hiawatha, Far away amid the forest, Miles away among the mountains, Heard that sudden cry of anguish, Heard the voice of Minnehaha Calling to him in the darkness, "Hiawatha! Hiawatha!" Over snow-fields waste and pathless, Under snow-encumbered branches, Homeward hurried Hiawatha, Empty-handed, heavy-hearted, ... And his bursting heart within him Uttered such a cry of anguish, That the forest moaned and shuddered, That the very stars in heaven Shook and trembled with his anguish.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


53 feet from top to bottom


Minnehaha Falls

Why It's Interesting

This waterfall and the land surrounding it was bought from the Dakota Indians in 1805. The name, Minnehaha, comes from Dakota words: "mni" for water and "gaga" for falling or curling.

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