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Crossing the mighty Mississippi Headwaters

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park


Sometimes it is by word of mouth I learn of some incredible locations to visit. It was such when a local of the Detroit Lakes MN area told me of the state park called Itasca.

Itasca State Park entrance sign

Minnesota’s Itasca State Park is 32000 acres nestled among one-hundreds lakes offering camping, hiking & fishing. 

The panoramic photos reveal the headwaters of the Mississippi River. From here, the river is just twelve feet wide flowing over rocks separating the river from Lake Itasca to meander 2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Panoramic photo of the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River

Yes, I crossed the river several times by foot in less than fifteen seconds, along with several other visitors.

It is here to the right of this post marks the beginning of the Mississippi River flowing 2552-miles passing ten-US States to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

From the headwaters parking lot, the park offers a 7-mile scenic one-way wilderness drive allowing time to visually absorb the beauty, which I’m sure is a fall destination when the leaves change colors. I took the time to map out locations for day hikes with so many picturesque photo opportunities.

Day hiking:

I spent two days in the Itasca state park campgrounds exploring the park before returning to Detroit Lakes, where I camped. I returned for a third day to day hike and the excitement stirred my soul and with thoughts of what could have been an exciting summer of continuous hiking, if not for the world pandemic.

One of the reasons I love backpacking in the western US above 4-5 thousand feet is a wind to avoid mosquitos. So, sure enough, my morning hike included abundant mosquitoes when I began the trail with clothing treated with the insect repellent “permethrin. I had an insect net covering my wide brim hat as I smirkingly smiled, watching insects swarming around me, searching for openings to suck my blood.

I never considered photographing my insect-proof attire. 

During normal times, pre-world pandemic, Itasca State parks offered a wonderful variety of opportunities for visitors, from cabin lodging sites, an Old-Growth Pine Forest, dinning at the Douglas Lodge, and Headwaters cafe, with gift shops. The park concession offers kayaks, canoes, bicycle rental to pedal the 16 miles of paved forested bike paths.

Lake boat tour rides and hundreds of lakes in the region to fish, to view wildlife, and of course walk-across the width of the Mississippi Headwaters.

Itasca, State Park, has become one of my favorites destinations I will return to as should you if you are ever in the area.

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