AAA Editor Notes
Itasca State Park is 21 mi. n. on US 71 to 36750 Main Park Dr. Within the 32,000-acre park are 157 lakes, the foremost of which is Lake Itasca, source of the Mississippi River. The river's headwaters flow north from the lake as far as Bemidji before heading east and then winding more than 2,500 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico. A short walk from the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Visitor Center you can ford the river via (slippery) rocks; if you fall the mishap supposedly brings good luck.
The Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center at the park entrance contains a museum and an interactive children's center, and an ADA-accessible nature trail is on the grounds. From stands of virgin Norway pine to badgers, bats and beavers to the elusive and beautiful Cecropia moth, nearly every type of wild animal, tree and plant native to Minnesota can be found in this vast wilderness area.
Recreational opportunities abound; highlights include a scenic wilderness drive, paved bike trails, a beach area with playgrounds and a naturalist-led interpretive cruise on Lake Itasca. Bikes, boats and canoes can be rented. Park rangers conduct numerous seasonal organized nature programs as well as junior naturalist programs aimed at youth. Cabins and the historic Douglas Lodge offer overnight stays.
Pets on leash are allowed. Recreational activities are permitted. Camping is permitted. Picnicking is permitted. Food is available. Time: Allow 3 hours minimum.