Glaciers shaped the U’s campus

Eliana Schreiber

The glaciers that formed the neighborhoods and landscape throughout the Twin Cities play an important part in the design of the University of Minnesota campus.
 
 
When building the campus, the University specifically chose the area surrounding the river because of how flat it is, said Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Geologist Carrie Jennings.
 
 
“The Mississippi is a really unusual river in that it’s in that deep-, deep-sided gorge,” Jennings said. “That’s just not the way a river normally looks.”
 
 
The river bluffs define the geological structure of the Minneapolis campus, earth sciences Professor Calvin Alexander said. 
 
 
The area surrounding the Washington Avenue Bridge near the river bluffs is geologically young, Alexander said, in comparison to the rock itself. The gorge in the river near campus is only a couple thousand years old, he said, which makes the bluffs much steeper.
 
 
The beaches the Mississippi forms are created through the erosion of St. Peter sandstone, Jennings said. The soft rock can be found at the bluffs of the river valley and forms
a tunnel from Fort Snelling to the Bohemian Flats area.
 
 
Platteville Limestone sits above it and is strong enough to support rooms up to 300 feet wide, earth sciences researcher Scott Alexander said.
 
 
The strength of these layers allows part of Andersen Library to be housed underground on the West Bank, he said.