If you were an early explorer looking for the source of the Mississippi River, you would be in for a very tough time in northern Minnesota. By all accounts, the river's source and headwaters are at Lake Itasca, and we visited there. If you look at a map of the area, however, you might be so focused on the fact that the river largely flows southward to the Gulf of Mexico that you would fail to realize that at the outset, she meanders out of Lake Itasca to the north and northwest and then goes all over the place to the east and northeast to Lake Bemidji after which she turns eastward, southeastward through Cass Lake and Lake Winnibigoshish, turns to the south and then back to the east to White Oak Lake, with more southerly and easterly turns to Grand Rapids, MN after which she then decides to start to the south, then southwest, then to the west, and back to the south and southeast on her way through Minneapolis. It's not until she reaches LaCrosse, Wisconsin that she sees committed to heading to the south toward New Orleans. And then when you found the source, you would be flabbergasted to see it. It was difficult but fun to track all this on Mapquest, and my guess it would be a riot to try to track her as closely as you could by car, from Lake Itasca to LaCrosse, and you would visit some spectacular lake country in northern Minnesota. I guess early explorers, working with Native Americans, must have tracked it by foot, probably from the LaCrosse or Minneapolis areas all the way to the north by that wild route.
I only visited Lake Itasca to see the headwaters and source. So that's what I will present here.
January 11, 2015
This i a Mapquest view of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. The yellow arrow points to the source of the Mississippi and the white arrow points to the river leaving the area, to the northwest.
That is the northwest tip of Lake Itasca in the background, and what you see coming over those rocks is the source of the Mississippi River. Incredible, eh?
A closer look. Here's a spot where you can literally walk across the Mississippi River!
And that she goes, the Mighty Mississippi! Let me zoom in a moment downstream
Note someone has put a log across the river, and we did see kids, of course, walking across, well sort of. Also note the pathway where you can take a nice walk along the Mighty River.
And a very nice walk it is.
The walkway ran out, I took one final look at the Big Guy, and left for a trip through northern Minnesota and ultimately to Duluth.