Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory – Minneapolis, Minnesota - Atlas Obscura

Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory

One of the world's premier laboratories for hydraulic engineering research takes full advantage of the water's power. 


Located on a small island in the Mississippi River is a laboratory renowned for its world-class research facilities and the high quality of its outputs. Though many civil and hydraulic engineers know of it, unacquainted visitors to Minneapolis will likely see it from across the river and assume it’s part of the nearby hydroelectric power station.

The Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) started life as a dedicated hydraulic engineering laboratory. It made use of the hydraulic head provided by the Saint Anthony Falls to amass the large volumes of flowing water it needs to drive its experiments.

SAFL was inaugurated in 1938 and was designed and later headed by Lorenz G. Straub, who was famous for his work on water flow in concrete pipes. Straub was in charge from the lab’s inauguration up until his death in 1963. He was also associated with some of the world’s largest water resources and hydropower developments.

Since Straub’s death, SAFL has broadened its activities and currently does important work in environmental sciences, water power, and fluid dynamics. Its staff have also started a research interest in wind power.

Know Before You Go

The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) is currently operated under the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. SAFL offers monthly tours (go to and search "SAFL") where you can see their fantastic research facilities as well as a public seminar program where visitors can hear about the current research.

It’s located on a small island in the Mississippi, close to the falls and directly opposite Mill Ruins Park. Access is from the east bank of the river.

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