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Itasca State Park, Minnesota (Headwaters of Mississippi River)

Itasca State Park surrounds Lake Itasca from which the headwaters of the Mississippi River flows. It is located at 36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN 56470 and is Minnesota's oldest state park. Ever since our son who lives in Minneapolis shared the headwaters with us, and later visited it himself, hubby has been wanting to go. So when we were visiting our family in Minneapolis, we made the tough choice to drive the extra three hours north and three hours back, for a total of six hours driving time, to visit this place. Now for some it may not be so exciting, but for us nature lovers and for us who have lived downstream along the Mississippi River our entire lives, it was rather exciting.

We stayed in a cabin on site, which was rather nice. I woke in the morning at 6 a.m. and my phone said it was 1 degree outside! I looked out the window and there was snow and ice everywhere! We could not see that when we drove in during the dark. By the time we made it to the headwaters, it was between 7 degrees and 9 degrees. We had the whole park to ourselves! Now this is the way to visit parks!

Our first stop after the Indian Mounds was Preacher's Grove known for the oldest redwood pines.

It was a very scenic spot! Our fingers were frozen and the fear of falling on the ice did not deter us.

This photo is of the boardwalk down at Peace Pipe Vista. We decided not to risk going down the steps in the ice. We had to choose how many places to visit with our frozen fingers.

This is a photo of the Pioneer Cemetery. We did not get out here either. The road follows the lake which is visible through the trees as you can see here.

Along the main road you come to a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River! It was gorgeous with the sunrise coming up through the trees. This is not far from the headwaters, so it is fun to see the beginning of the river from this standpoint.

Here is the bridge that goes over the mini mighty Mississippi River.

This is the other side of the bridge and you can see in the distance how the river curves. That is, if you can call it a river! It is more like a creek at this point in its flow.

Continuing on down the main road this is the turn to go into the parking lot to visit the headwaters. Isn't it a beautiful scene?

On the trail down to the headwaters you cross the Mississippi River. You see not far in the distance the boardwalk as you leave the headwaters as can be seen below. We talked about going down the steps to take a dip in the river, but only with our big toe at the temperature of 7 to 9 degrees! We walked on by.

The headwaters are about where you see the sun in this photo. This sign tells about the founding of the headwaters. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft discovered the source in 1832, although years earlier Lewis and Clark considered finding it only to get distracted.

Such a beautiful scene with the lake in the distant that feeds the headwaters.

Here it is! The headwaters on a beautiful cold, nippy morning with the sunrise glistening in the water. So lovely! The Mississippi River is the world's third long river. How cool is that!

The river is 1,475 above sea level here and will descend down from there, of course, to sea level where it enters the ocean at the Gulf of Mexico. It travels $2,552 miles.

Well, the sun is a bit wonky in this photo as it is so bright. We noted how the ice on the lake was still frozen except where the water was flowing, which is where the water flows to begin the river. That is probably not evident on non-frozen days or with the whole thing is frozen over.

Famous feet shot! That's what we call them. It places us on location.

Yep! Here's my mark! I left it to prove I stood at the headwaters of the Mississippi River! We almost did not cross the rocks. The set above these were full of ice, but the large stones only had a little bit of ice. We had to hold hands to balance each other as not all the stones were flat like this one.

Wowser, huh?

This is the view behind me while standing on the stones crossing the river. That board in the distance is the way back across the water.

Turning back around again! I had to keep doing a 360 and savoring the moment from the middle of the headwaters.

I love looking at the same view from different spots. It changes into a whole new scene just a bit downstream. We joke about whether or not we got home before the water we saw here reached Cape Girardeau.

This is the view looking the other way as we are about to cross the every-so not-very-wide log across the river.

Another famous foot shot! This one is so artistic and cool with the glistening of the water and the shadows and the ice. Love it.

We had to hold hands again and go really slow walking on that ice on the board, but we made it! Going back a different way than we came, the boardwalk was covered in snow and ice as it followed the beginnings of the river.

Here is yet another bridge crossing the beginnings of the Mississippi River.

This is a view of the lake from the parking lot where you can rent kayaks and other sporting equipment. This is looking down the flow of the lake so in the distance is the headwaters.

This is the same parking lot looking the other way. So lovely!

This is a view of the Mississippi River as we crossed it driving back south to go home near Myrtle Falls, Minnesota. Goodness has it gotten larger already! There is a Great River Road that follows the Mississippi River across many states. I did find it interesting that the river flows north first and then turns east for a while before turning south.


We had a great time!









Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
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