Itasca State Park

Wander Woman

Origin of the Mississippi River

Minnesota, USA

Hello, inquisitive people. Wander Woman here. If you’re like most people – myself included, until recently – when you picture the Mississippi River, you picture the “Mighty Mississippi”. A river so grand in size and scope that Americans use it as arguably the most major landmark in the country, saying things like “oh, that’s the tallest building west of the Mississippi.”

People envision a channel both deep and wide, spanned by bridges, and plied by barges and paddleboats. And none of these visions are wrong or inaccurate. Much of the Mississippi River does look like this. Much – but not all. If you’d love to be able to tell your friends that you rolled up your pants to the knees and waded across the Mississippi from shore to shore, there is a place where you can go to earn those bragging rights! I know, because I did it.

Itasca State Park in Northern Minnesota is widely regarded to hold the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Within the park is a glacial lake also called Itasca, and this lake is believed to be the source of the Mississippi. At the point where the river issues forth from the late and begins its journey, it’s approximately 20 feet (6 M) wide and 1.5 feet (0.4 m) deep.

Beside a picturesque footbridge, a flight of steps leads down one bank to the water, and another leads back up the opposite bank. This is where you can earn your bragging rights that you waded all the way across the mightiest river in America.

Lake Itasca is located in Northern Minnesota, not too far from the US/Canadian border. This is an area of the country that endures particularly harsh winters, so I definitely recommend visiting in the summer months. The state park has excellent infrastructure to make your visit easy; ample parking, knowledgeable rangers, large clean restrooms a short walk from the lake/headwaters, and a really lovely visitor center and gift shop. Check it out and join me in the “I waded across the Mississippi River” club!


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