Saturday, December 3, 2011

East Bank Tailraces & NSP Power Plant

Biff and I had heard epic stories about the East bank Tailraces. Word had it, the hidden streams led to the abandoned sub-levels of the NSP power plant in St. Anthony Main. Ol' Biff and I had explored the area quite extensively and have been apprehensive about several areas due to the smell of burning crack rock. One night, Biff and I joined a few folks and headed down to narcotic junction armed with blinding lights and determination to enter the elusive buried and forgotten world.

During our adventures, Biff and I often banter on about the fact that a large part of downtown Minneapolis is built on hollow ground. As we walked along under the unsuspecting general public,the eerie darkness consumes your thoughts and shadows appear to move and dart behind objects.

The tailraces are a maze of subterranean rivers, rusting pipes, rotting wood planks, graffiti and various other ancient objects to waltz around. Walking in the semi-dry river of muck and rubbish seems like a safer way to travel along the ruins, however, the decaying catwalks and pipes above our heads were simply too intriguing to pass up.

Rusting pipes and abandoned utility lines littered the tailraces at every turn. We picked a heading and began the first leg toward the the sub-levels of the NSP plant.

Thankfully, the air quality is fine in the tailraces and you can make decent progress along the catwalks and crouch tunnels. Eventually, we ran out of bridges and passageways across the stagnant water and had to get creative and figure out an alternative route.

Luckily, Biff and I are creative and imaginative in a pinch, and with the help of our guide and a wee bit of fancy footwork, (three of us fell into the dank water that night) we finally reached the sub-levels of the NSP power plant.

We've seen some pretty incredible places during our outings, but the shear magnitude of the sub-basements of the plant left both Biff and I speechless. Giant rusting turbines sat frozen in time, long since abandoned and forgotten. Hulking machinery sat among rubble, boxes and discarded construction material that has fallen/been thrown from stories above.

After spending some time in the lowest sub-basement and exploring every inch we could squeeze our bodies through, we decided it was time to head up the rickety stairs to another level.
We reached the top of the stairs to find that the lights are kept on at night inside the active part of the plant. We could see light shining through the doorjams, casting haunting figures in the otherwise pitch black surroundings.

 For the most part, the abandoned sub-levels of the plant are gutted pretty well and left to rust and collect dust. As far as I can tell, little, if any, maintenance is done in the basement levels, leaving the entombed structure undisturbed and full of relics from the past.

 Walking along the gangplanks took careful navigation and patience. One wrong move and you could end up with a leg dangling from a hole several stories up from the bottom sub-level of the power plant.
 After taking a brief break and taking a few photos, we resumed our journey and explored several areas previously thought to be closed as well as crawlspaces that led to partially submerged machine rooms. 

 Checking my watch, I realized that we had been underground for nearly 4 hours and suggested to the group that perhaps it was time we think about heading out. There was a general consensus among everyone we head back down into the depths of the power plant and out to the tailraces.