Camp Coldwater

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An arch and a small pond mark the outlet of the Camp Coldwater spring.

Camp Coldwater is an area of several springs that are important to Native Americans, as well as an early European settlement in the state of Minnesota, United States. Camp Coldwater is located adjacent to the Mississippi River in south Minneapolis, directly south of Minnehaha Park.

The camp was explored by early European settlers who were in the process of building Fort Snelling. On May 5, 1820, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth moved his troops to the area because their former encampment, on the Minnesota River, was causing unhealthy conditions. Due to the presence of Escherichia coli in the waters, which was unknown until 1895, the water there was also contaminated, like the Minnesota River. Leavenworth was succeeded by Colonel Josiah Snelling in August of that year. The soldiers lived in tents and huts on the site during three summers while they built the permanent stone fort south of the location. The spring continued to supply water to the fort, first via water wagons and then via a stone water tower and underground pipes. Settlers who had left the Red River Colony settled near the location in 1821, but were forced to leave in 1840. They moved down the Mississippi River and settled in what eventually became Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Coldwater area once housed blacksmith shops, stables, trading posts, a hotel, and a steamboat landing, but nearly all of those buildings were gone by the time of the American Civil War.[1]

The Minnesota Department of Transportation set a national precedent in 2003 by welding 28,000 square yards of eight-layer synthetic liner, covering approximately six acres to protect the water flow to the spring. The liner isolated the Hwy 55/62 interchange, allowing it to sit below the water table and remain dry, while also letting the water flow beneath the interchange to the spring.

The Coldwater site is located on the United States Bureau of Mines property east of Minnesota State Highway 55. The property was transferred to the National Park Service in 2010, and made a unit of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.


Early in the Spring [of 1820] Col. Leavenworth discovered the fountain of water where the troops now are, & to which they moved as soon as the ice would permit. It is a healthy situation, about 200 feet above the river, and the water gushing out of a lime stone rock is excellent. It is called "Camp Cold Water."

— James Duane Doty, Camp Cold Water, July 31, 1820

[It is] a situation which is extremely salubrious, and where they will remain until the permanent works [Fort St. Anthony, later Fort Snelling] are completed upon the bluff at the junction of the two rivers.

— Henry Schoolcraft, July 29, 1820

I was a little surprised on arriving here, to find that there is no such place as St. Peters proper. Fort Snelling, New Hope, and Camp Coldwater, comprise all the settlements here; and St. Peters seems to have been used, by common consent, as a name for the whole settlement around the mouth of the St. Peters river (Minnesota River), which empties into the Mississippi here, seven miles below the falls of St. Anthony.

— Benjamin T. Kavanaugh, November 5, 1839


  1. ^ Rubenstein, Sarah P. (2003). Minnesota History Along the Highways. Minnesota Historical Society. ISBN 0-87351-456-4.