The beginning of the mighty Mississippi

Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
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12
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Walker, MN at Trails RV. Passport America Park, $35 a nite, 1/2 off mon-thurs

Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Saturday, August 29, 2009

No trip to Northern Minnesota would be complete without a visit to the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi river, located within Itasca State Park.  Our coach is too big to fit into the campgrounds at the state park so we are staying in a Passport America campground in Walker, MN. For our fellow campers out there who don't know about Passport America, here's a link, www.passportamerica.com.  We've found it to be a very worthwhile investment.  

Anyway, we  planned a day trip out to Itasca and chose to make a 'circle tour' out of it.  This would allow us to take in a couple of other area highlites along the way while not doing any backtracking. 

First stop?  The 'world famous' Paul Bunyan & "Babe" statues along the shores of Lake Bemidji.   Built in 1937, they are big and were worth the stop and photo-op.  Located right across the street from Paul & Babe was a statue of Chief Bemidji for whom the town is named.  The city of Bemidji is the largest we have been to since we left Duluth, with a population of just over 11,000.  Besides the statues, Bemidji's other claim to fame is that it is the first city located on the Mississippi River. 

Next up? Itasca State Park.  After paying a $5 entry fee we made our way to the visitor center located at the northern entrance.  I want to share with you some of the interesting facts we learned:

        The name Mississippi comes from the Algonquin word Misiziibi which means
        'a river spread over a large area'

        The Mississippi River travels through 10 states
    
        30%  of the distance the river travels as well as 1/2 the elevation drop occurs in
        Minnesota

        The river travels at an average speed on 1.2 mph

Also interesting to learn was the fact that it took decades to track down the actual headwaters of the river.  Why the need to know where the headwaters were?  Well,  early land grant treaties between the British and Americans were written using landmarks as borders.  A frequently used landmark was the Mississippi river.  Therefore, knowing where this mighty river started was deemed necessary.  There was also alot of conflict over what denoted the actual 'start'.  It wasn't until the 1880's that Lake Itasca was determined to be the headwaters.  This 'discovery' was made with the help of the local Indian Chief who found this obsession with finding the location rather comical.  

Itasca State Park was established in 1891 and preserves the headwaters as well as remnant stands of virgin pine.  After getting 'educated' at the visitor center we took a short walk out to the headwaters, which Ken decided to walk across.  All was going well until he slipped off one of the rocks.  He saved himself from falling but managed to get his feet soaked. Now he can not only say that he walked across the Misissippi but that he got his feet wet at the source of this mighty river. It's a good thing he had brought along a spare pair of shoes or it would have been an uncomfortable rest of the day.  

Done at the headwaters we took the wilderness drive.  We were planning on doing some hiking but our first venture out into the virgin woods was met with an attack by some very hungry mosquitos. Rather than becoming lunch we chose to take in the sights from the car.  

Once done at Itasca we headed down the road.  We made a few more stops on the way home including dinner and a donation at the local casino.  It was yet another beautiful day here in Northern Minnesota and one that has enabled Ken to cross a 'must do' visit off his list.   
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