The joy of the Mississippi and its Headwaters

Bodil Forsling, Tourism Account Executive at Mall of America, shares her Minnesota-based experiences. Exploring locally—the Mississippi River and its Headwaters.

Though I work in tourism promoting international visitation to Mall of America I found myself yearning for the outdoors early last summer. Enjoy speaking about MOA, but there is a lot more to the wonderful state of Minnesota than our large retail and entertainment complex (a top tourist destination in its own right).

I ventured outdoors to achieve two bucket list items I had wanted to experience since arriving in this state many years ago—both Mississippi River related.

First, I wanted to walk across the Mississippi, while avoiding falling in of course. The Mississippi Headwaters are located about three and a half hours north from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. On the way “up north” my day-trip companion and I made a stop in Baxter at Morey’s Seafood Market. Given my Swedish background I could not drive past this delightful market without taking a look. I found more styles of pickled herring than my own grandmother ever prepared for any smörgåsbord. We settled on adding smoked fish to our picnic basket and continued our trek towards Itasca State Park, eager to get to our destination.

It was easy getting into the state park and finding our way to the car drop off area. Being one of Minnesota’s must-see destinations everything is very well marked. Along the walking paths winding their way towards Lake Itasca and the Headwaters we spotted a few families out and about, all enjoying the early warm summer weather, after having been safely staying at home during our “Stay (Covid) Safe MN” time period. With picnic basket in tow, we settled on a large rock just next to the lake, watching children and adults alike as they carefully made their way over the rocks protruding out of the Headwaters. Some rocks more slippery than others it was delightful to see most everyone getting across with pure excitement. 

Before we ventured out on the rocks we enjoyed our picnic basket by the lake, including the wonderful smoked fish. We watched families enjoying swimming in the lake only a few feet away from where the mighty Mississippi River starts to flow. The river stretches 2,552 miles south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The water was clean and clear and it was a joy to see. On the other side of the rock overpass we saw a few visitors lay down on their backs letting the river carry them through the start of the river and into the forest. It is quite the experience, and an experience only found in Minnesota—The Mississippi Headwaters.

About a month later, I ventured back out on to the Mississippi River, this time a little closer to the Twin Cities and with an experienced canoe paddler in tow. We set out on a five-hour long canoe ride from St. Cloud to Clearwater. This was another Minnesota bucket list item of mine. It was a warm and sunny day, on the majestic Mississippi River, without many other canoers or kayakers in sight. With just a slight breeze and steady currents our canoe floated down the river. We maneuvered through a couple of areas of heavier currents but mostly it was quiet and so serene. The water currents slowly pulled our canoe down the river and we only had to use the paddles occasionally to keep us going straight. There are numerous off-shoots from the Mississippi River that one can venture down, which can add hours to the excursion, but this was my first time and I wanted to stay on the main river and truly relax and enjoy the moment.  We saw numerous birds, a few scattered fishermen, and a couple of smaller public camp sites as we floated down the river. The river keeps winding and what seems like a short distance can seemingly stretch forever.

The two amazing Mississippi River excursions were definitely the highlight of my summer, and as an added bonus I managed not to fall in on either occasion. It may have pushed me out of my comfort zone skip-hopping across the headwaters, but I was able to do it. Not elegantly, but I walked across the Mississippi River Headwaters. Thinking back on the experience I can’t help but start to smile.


Posted on: 15/04/2021

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