A History of the Minne Lusa Creek in North Omaha

"A Beauty Spot, Miller Park, Omaha, Neb."

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

North Omaha's Lost Minne Lusa Creek by Adam Fletcher Sasse for NorthOmahaHistory.com
The Minne Lusa Creek flowed from N. 48th and Sorenson Pkwy to Missouri River until it was completely undergrounded by 1920.

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.

“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

This is an 1881 map showing the North Omaha neighborhoods where the Minne Lusa Creek flowed, including the Monmouth Park, Collier Place, and Miller Park neighborhoods. It also flowed through the south end of Fort Omaha. Note that the Minne Lusa neighborhood wouldn’t start construction for another 35 years.

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.

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

One of the bridges in Miller Park by Bostwick and Frohardt in 1914 in North Omaha, Nebraska
One of the bridges in Miller Park by Bostwick and Frohardt in 1914. This bridge sat on Miller Park Drive at the south end of the park, and Minne Lusa Creek flowed underneath it.

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

This is the last remaining daylighted section of North Omaha's Minne Lusa Creek near JJ Pershing Drive and the Missouri River.
This is the last remaining daylighted section of North Omaha’s Minne Lusa Creek near JJ Pershing Drive and the Missouri River.

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.

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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.

9 thoughts on “A History of the Minne Lusa Creek in North Omaha

  1. I lived on Minne Lusa Blvd from 1955 to 1962 and everyone that I knew referred to the Minne Lusa Creek as “Stink Creek” It was located just south of the OPPD plant and was filled with condoms and other human waste. The name we gave it was appropriate, it smelled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Kim, Stink Creek is still there – and its still the Minne Lusa Creek rerouted! But importantly, we have to recognize the historical path of the creek from waaaaaay up near 35th and Fowler to 27th through the Miller Park neighborhood, then Miller Park Pond into the underground sewer between the Minne Lusa Boulevard and out where Stink Creek is today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I lived on North 28th Avenue from 1952 until 1963. Fond memories of Minne Lusa Grade School, Miller Park and what we called Stink Creek, adjacent to OPPD.
        Many lifelong friends from Minne Lusa (Lost Water). Never knew the Creek covered such a distance.

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  2. There was and perhaps still is a creek running east from Forest Lawn Cemetery which went underground on the west side of 30th across from Weber. I always assumed it ran under Sharon Drive and joined Minne Lusa Creek where the streets meet. Do you know if that’s true?

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  3. There was and perhaps still is a creek running east from Forest Lawn Cemetery which went underground on the west side of 30th across from Weber. I always assumed it ran under Sharon Drive and joined Minne Lusa Creek where the streets meet. Do you know if that’s true?

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  4. To add to the above comment, when I was growing up in Minne Lusa we kids had no idea that the creek was still existing under the boulevard. We all thought the Forest Lawn creek was what emerged as Stink Creek. In fact it was often called Upper Stink Creek. So the idea that the two creeks merge is based on what I know now.

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  5. Quite a few years ago I did research on Minne Lusa. Not to be a bubble buster but “Minne Lusa Creek” is actually The Fort Omaha Creek. I have Plat maps of Florence Field that shows the name as Fort Omaha Creek. I think we would all like it to be Minne Lusa Creek but it is not.

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    1. Larry, I share maps in my article that refer to the creek all the way through as the “Minne Lusa Creek.” In my research I found a single map referring to it as the “Fort Omaha Creek,” and several referring to it as the Minne Lusa Creek, so I’m sticking with my conclusion. Thanks for sharing though!

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    2. I’d be curious where you got your information on the creek being called Minne Lusa Creek. I have a copy of sewer dist 856 from the City of Omaha that clearly shows the creek flowing through Minne Lusa/Florence Field as being the Fort Omaha Creek. I read your story. I have never found any documentation showing the creek as being named Minne Lusa Creek.

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