Posted by: Dan Bergeson | June 26, 2007

Whither flows the Cannon River?

As I was riding through town yesterday, it struck me that only one of the six bridges spanning the Cannon River in the Northfield/Dundas area actually has signage that announce the presence of the river running beneath the wheels travelling overhead. Why is that? Is there a law against it? Are we ashamed of the river and want to keep it hidden? Don’t we want visitors to know how important this stream is to the health of our community?

Some of us talk often about the Cannon as a community asset that should be protected and promoted. What better way to promote it than to tell people where it is and what it’s called? In all the conversation about improving the streetscape in downtown Northfield, I don’t believe river signage has ever been raised. Well, I’m raising it.


Here’s the only existing signage that I could find as well as the other potential venues for additional signage. New signage doesn’t have to be as utilitarian as the MnDOT standard, although I wouldn’t care if it was.

Railway St. Bridge in Dundas4th-st-bridge-at-ames-mill.gif5th-st-bridge-northfield.gif

The photo on the left is the Railway Street bridge in Dundas looking to the west. The middle picture is the 4th St. bridge in Northfield at the Ames Mill looking east. The photo on the right is the 5th St. bridge in Northfield looking west. There are two other crossings in downtown that I haven’t shown, the pedestrian bridge and the bridge at 2nd St. Neither of them acknowledges the Cannon flowing underneath either.

This reminds me of the opening passage of a book called “Old Glory” written many years ago by the British journalist, Jonathan Raban. The book chronicled his journey in an open boat with an outboard from one end of the Mississippi to the other. When he got to Minneapolis, he couldn’t find the Mississippi for some time because it was hidden by bridges with tall railings and no signage. He wondered if there was some shameful reason for hiding the river or if this was just a colossal oversight by urban planners. I believe in the ensuing decades that Minneapolis has done much better on the river’s behalf and I’m hopeful that Northfield and Dundas will work to continually improve our relationship with the Cannon River.


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