The source of the Mississippi River was hotly controversial with explorers offering several different theories. While we often think of the “source” as percolating out of the ground or a tiny stream from no where, the source of the Mississippi River actually flows out of a glacial lake that a few tributaries feed all year round.
The mighty Mississippi River begins its winding journey to the Gulf of Mexico as a mere 18-foot wide knee-deep river that flows out of Itasca Lake in northern Minnesota. We found this source and even walked on a short boardwalk following its beginning.
From here the river flows north to Bemidji, where it turns east, and then south near Grand Rapids. It will flow a total of 694 miles before working its way out of Minnesota. We will drive the entire length down to the Gulf of Mexico over the next 6 weeks on two-lane "national scenic byways" back roads.
The Great River Route skirts the Mississippi River ducking in and out around the bends occasionally giving us a glimpse of the meandering river that is still rather narrow. For miles along this two-lane road we were the only vehile. We passed signs pointing the way to fishing lodges through the dense forest of maple, river birch, bur oak, green ash, hackberry, cottonwood and swamp white oak. Apparently what these lodges lack in comfort they gain in location!
Lumberjacks sitting around their camps told a story that Paul Bunyan and Babe wandered throughout Minnesota and their large footprints caused deep holes in the earth. Rainwater filled them which created Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. Another story told that a huge water cart that Babe was hauling sprung a leak and dribbled all the way to New Orleans, causing-you guessed it- the mighty Mississippi River!
We are having fun stopping to see the largest this-largest that roadside attraction. Amazing what the little communities come up with!