Project Library

Harriet Island:
Home of Saint Paul Celebrations

Project History:
Harriet Island, situated on the Mississippi River across from downtown St. Paul, was one of the first recreational sites in Minnesota’s capital city. Originally developed as a park in 1901, the park is named for pioneer school teacher Harriet Bishop. Historically, the park was a true island, separated from the mainland by a channel of the Mississippi. The channel was filled in 1949.

A beloved gathering place that had been neglected for decades, Harriet Island has undergone a complete transformation. The Riverfront Corporation led an effort to accelerate the park’s redevelopment schedule from fifteen years to two. The first $14.5 million redevelopment phase was completed in 2001, funded by the State of Minnesota, corporations, foundations, individual donors and the City of Saint Paul. The Riverfront Corporation also conducted a very successful Buy-A-Brick program. More than 3,000 community members invested in the effort, purchasing bricks and markers, which were inscribed and personalized. The Buy-A-Brick program funded paved plazas, walkways and other improvements.

The funding for Phase I supported a community-based design process, led by Philadelphia-based Wallace Roberts Todd and Saint Paul Parks and Recreation. The resulting design features amenities unique to park’s riverside setting and heritage, and the community’s needs.

A second  phase of redevelopment was finished in 2009, completing the park’s transformation as one of Minnesota’s premier gathering place. Today, more than one million people visit Harriet Island each year, enjoying the park’s open spaces and play fields, children’s playground, picnic pavilions, river overlooks, fishing pier, performance stages and boat harbors — as well as a floating bed and breakfast, theater showboat and paddle boat cruises from the island’s public docks.

Harriet Island Features

Ohage Great Lawn:
The 22-acre Great Lawn is named after Dr. Justus Ohage who developed Harriet Island as a park and donated it to the City of  Saint Paul in 1901. The open space serves a broad range of local residents and regional visitors for picnics, kite flying, strolling and pick up recreational, as well as private corporate gatherings and major regional music and entertainment events.

Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion: The WPA-era Wigington Pavilion is on the National Register of Historic Places. The beautiful 5,000 square foot year-round facility, with a working fireplace and proscenium stage, is available for private events. A grand staircase welcomes visitors to the river’s edge.

Open-Air Picnic Pavilion: This new park feature, completed in 2009, is nestled under spreading cottonwood trees and surrounded by walking trails, native plantings and rain gardens.

Clockwise from upper left: Harriet Island riverbank before redesign and renovation; Harriet Island riverbank today; Phase II of Harriet Island Esplanade, including riverside picnic grounds and innovative stormwater managment.

Harriet Island Features

Target Stage: The large outdoor performance stage, designed by famed architect Michael Graves and funded by Target Corporation, is a new landmark in the river valley – and host to many music events throughout the year.

Public Dock: Saint Paul residents and visitors enjoy strolling, dining, fishing and relaxing along Harriet Island’s Public Dock, which runs 500 feet out over the river. The Covington Inn floating bed & breakfast is anchored dockside as well, offering unique riverside accommodations. The dock also provides facilities for boaters who want to visit Harriet Island for a few hours – or a few days.

Minnesota Centennial Showboat: Whether you’re a fan of mystery, comedy, or musicals, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat is a spectacular destination for live theatre. Inside, guests are transported back in time by the interior’s Victorian-era decor and winding staircase. But the Showboat’s richest feature is its intimate 225-seat jewelbox theater. For ticket reservations – or to reserve the Showboat for your own event, visit or call 651-227-1100.

Padleford Packet Boat Company: For 40 years, the Padleford’s river boats have offered Mississippi River cruises for sightseers, school groups, private parties, weddings, reunions and a variety of special events. For a cruise schedule or to reserve boats for your own event, visit

Upper and Lower Harbors: The Saint Paul Yacht Club operates two harbor facilities within Harriet Island Regional Park with a total of 230 boat slips ranging in size from 24’ to over 50’ in length. All slips have electrical and water service. The Lower Harbor houses a community of a houseboat community of year-round residents.