The Minne Lusa Creek has been lost!
Well, not really… but it is mostly forgotten, and few people know where it starts. To understand the value of North Omaha’s lost Minne Lusa Creek, we recognize the historical path of the creek from near North 35th and Fowler to North 27th, through the Miller Park neighborhood, then into Miller Park Pond and onto the underground sewer between the lanes of Minne Lusa Boulevard and out where it is called “Stink Creek” today. Here’s a history of Minne Lusa Creek.
North Omaha’s Lost Minne Lusa Creek
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?
“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.
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. Sometimes called the Fort Omaha Creek, it was a popular waterway in early North Omaha.
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. Learn more from “The Lost Monument.”
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 began to get dug up and during World War II they were completed scrapped for the war effort.
Remains of the Creek
Today, the Miller Park pond is intact, and the Minne Lusa Creek still runs under Minne Lusa Boulevard and beyond.
For more than 50 years, the creek section sprouting from JJ Pershing Drive to the Missouri River has been called “Stink Creek” because of the smell it spews. In the last 20 years, the Omaha Public Power District cemented in the sides of that section to control erosion better, and in the last decade the City of Omaha completed a bike path along this section of the creek connecting it to downtown Omaha and Dodge Park.
Minne Lusa Creek needs to be daylighted, which is the process of taking a waterway out of a sewer or other underground aparatus and showing it the light of day. A creek flowing freely through the northern reaches of North Omaha would inspire and motivate young people, families and others to spend time outdoors and stop the vilification of nature in the city. It could also increase home values and challenge negative perceptions of the neighborhoods it flows through.
BONUS: Interested in waterways around Omaha? 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). What would you add? Share your creeks in the comments section.
You Might Like…
- A History of the Minne Lusa Historic District in North Omaha
- A History of the Intersection of 30th and Fort
- A History of North Omaha’s Florence Water Works and Minne Lusa Pumping Station
- A History of North Omaha’s J.J. Pershing Drive and Monument