A History of the Minne Lusa Creek in North Omaha

“Capped” is the word the Omaha World-Herald used to describe the process in which the City of Omaha sealed creeks around the city by channeling them through sewer pipes. That’s how this story ends, mostly.

 


Artesian Springs

The Minne Lusa Creek used to flow from a spring at about about N. 42nd and Redman along present-day Sorenson Parkway then north through the Miller Park neighborhood, into the present-day pond in the park and through today’s Minne Lusa Historic District, then out to the Missouri River.

 

An 1887 map shows the flow of the creek from the southwest (bottom left) corner of the map to the northeast corner (upper right) where it want onto the Missouri River.

 

Starting from a spring at about about North 42nd and Redman Street along present-day Sorenson Parkway, the creek flowed east to near present-day Browne Street. It then went north along present-day North 28th and through the Miller Park neighborhood. At North 28th and Kansas Streets, it flowed through the bottom of two hills and into the present-day Miller Park.

From there, the creek went north into the present-day Minne Lusa Historic District. It went northward to the Missouri River, where its delta constantly shifted according to the river’s ever-changing flow.

 


Bridges Over the Creek

In 1897, pioneer-era Omaha leader Dr. George Miller nominated the public park he’d established in his North Omaha housing development as a potential site for the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition. He didn’t win, losing out to fellow pioneer-era Omaha leader Herman Kountze’s Kountze Place neighborhood. More than 100 temporary buildings were constructed, and fine fixtures were used throughout. The centerpiece was a large lagoon in the main concourse of the Expo. There were two fine iron bridges built across the lagoon that carried hundreds of thousands of people across the lagoon for a few years.

Historian Michele Wyman has conducted research on the fate of the bridges, and found they were installed on Minne Lusa Creek at the north end of the park and in the middle of the park after the Expo.

However, they were ill-fated.

With construction of the Miller Park storm sewer, the bridges over Minne Lusa Creek were buried. Engineers with the City of Omaha created a gigantic sewer to pipe the creek from its spring at present-day North 42nd and Sorenson Parkway north to Fort Street, then eastward to North 27th, then due north to the park.

At the park, the bridges were made obsolete by the construction of the sewer. Instead, a lark pond was installed using freshwater springs that were already at the location that used to flow into the creek. The creek was run through the sewer, further north through Minne Lusa and out to the Missouri River in what’s simply referred to as a “drainage ditch.”

In the meantime, Michele has discovered the bridge footings were simply wrecked and the bridges buried underground.

In 1933, they were unburied and probably scrapped. Michele will tell us when she’s finished with an awesome article about the bridges.

In the meantime, the Miller Park pond is intact, and the Minne Lusa Creek still runs under Minne Lusa Boulevard and beyond…

 

 


Remains of the Creek

Ten years later, this 1897 shows the creek intact.

 

The only obvious remnants today are the Miller Park pond and the channeled leftovers immediately south of the OPPD North Omaha Power Station.

Its unlikely we’ll ever see Minne Lusa Creek flow in the open again. Given its incorporation into the city’s sewage system and the absolute lack of interest the City of Omaha has shown for nature restoration in North Omaha, the Minne Lusa Creek is buried deep in the past. Memories of it are even rarer.

Who knows what the future could hold though? Now, with its history told and raising interest, perhaps the City of Omaha could explore restoring the creeks that once criss-crossed the city. Someday?

 

1890s Fort Omaha map
This is an 1890s map for Fort Omaha, with a clear location of the Minne Lusa Creek at the southern end of the fort. Originally, it extended to present-day Fowler Street.

 


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BONUS PICS!

 

Minne Lusa Creek, North Omaha, Nebraska
A then-and-now comparison of aerial views of the Minne Lusa Creek drainage into the Missouri River, from 1947 and 2015.

 

BONUS: Interested in water around the city? Through a collaborative research project with members of the Omaha History Club, I’ve compiled a list of historic creeks in Omaha. Some of what we’ve found include Saddle Creek; Ponca Creek; Minne Lusa Creek; West Papillion Creek; Hell Creek ; North Branch of the West Papillion Creek; Deer Creek; Indian Creek; Stone Creek; Pine Creek; Castle Creek; Sugar Creek; Cinnamon Creek; Twin Creek; Fontenelle Creek; Knight Creek; Boxelder Creek; Mill Creek; Spring Creek ; North Omaha Creek, and; South Omaha Creek (Leavenworth Street). Thanks to all the members who contributed, especially Michele Wyman, Ryan Roenfeld and Micah Evans. What would you add? Share your creeks in the comments section.

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