Park Rapids, Minnesota: Mississippi River Starts HereThe river starts here, the size of a brook, and you can walk across it on a "bridge" of slippery rocks.
Itasca State Park
- County Rd 117, Park Rapids, MN
- Itasca State Park. From Park Rapids drive north several miles on US Hwy 71, then turn west onto Hwy 200. Drive about five miles, then turn south onto Hwy 38, then right onto County Rd 117. The Headwaters Visitor Center will be on the left, with a short trail leading from it to the headwaters spot.
- RA Rates:
- Worth a Detour
Visitor Tips and News About Mississippi River Starts Here
Nestled in Paul Bunyan country is Lake Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, the "Father of Waters," the "Big Muddy." Legend has it that if you make a wish while wading across the river, your wish will come true before the water that soaked your feet reaches the Gulf of Mexico (typically, about three months).
Rather than wading barefoot through the foot-deep water, many people tried to keep their feet dry by using the 14 slippery stepping stones. My wish (that I wouldn't slip on the rocks) came true the instant I made it across, so the legend must be true!
Nice visitor center with a 3D map outside of the Mississippi River.
Safety tip - either kick off your shoes and simply wade across the sandy river bottom or make sure you're wearing water-proof sandals or boat shoes -- those rocks are really slippery, especially with water running over them, and we saw several folks slip and bang their shins on the rocks.[Dale Divers, 10/03/2010]