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Park Rapids, Minnesota: Mississippi River Starts Here

The river starts here, the size of a brook, and you can walk across it on a "bridge" of slippery rocks. Tall monument marks the spot as a photo-op.

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.
Daily 8am-10pm. Gated after hours. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Visitor Tips and News About Mississippi River Starts Here

Reports and tips from visitors and Roadside America mobile tipsters. Some tips may not be verified. Submit your own tip.

Split log crossing.

Mississippi River Starts Here

In addition to seeing the start of the Mississippi, Itasca State Park is beautiful with lots of well kept trails. You can also walk across the Mississippi on a split log if you want to avoid slippery rocks.

[Theroadtraveler, 06/25/2022]
Mississippi River Starts Here

Water is chilly even in July. Rocks can be covered in moss if wet, which makes them slippery and a small challenge to cross. If you'd prefer, there's a bridge across slightly upstream, or you can wade across the river bed to skip the rocks.

[Agent Summer, 07/05/2017]
Mississippi River Starts Here

Very nice, modern visitor center with a gift shop, WiFi and cafe. You will probably spend longer here than you plan (especially if you are with kids). Make sure to bring water shoes, swimsuit and a towel if it's a nice summer day!

[LamFam, 06/17/2017]

Headwaters of the Mississippi.

Headwaters of the Mississippi River

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]

Nearby Offbeat Places

The Original WigwamThe Original Wigwam, Lake George, MN - 10 mi.
Emmaville Store, Population 4Emmaville Store, Population 4, Emmaville, MN - 16 mi.
Chief Bemidji StatueChief Bemidji Statue, Bemidji, MN - 22 mi.
In the region:
Cordwood Pete and Tamarack, Fosston, MN - 34 mi.

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