July 25-28, 2018
We decided that since we were “Up North” that it would be a good time to check out the headwaters of the Mississippi River so we booked into Itasca State Park. Just listing all that Itasca has to offer would take pages of blog. I’ll try to put a snapshot here to cover what we did and maybe spark an interest in other people.
First, Itasca State Park is HUGE. It has over 100 lakes, miles of backcountry trails (including part of the North Country Scenic Trail), old growth forest, wilderness area, beautiful big lake and lots of critters. That is just a sampling of the natural stuff.
Now for the hand of man – They have a gorgeous visitor center with amazing interactive displays (there is a separate visitor center in the park for the Mississippi Headwaters which will be in a separate post). There is also a lodge, an old inn, gift shops, cabins for rent, two campgrounds, camp store, miles of paved bike paths, bike rentals, boat rentals, a boat tour on the lake, swimming beach, fishing docks, and playgrounds. They have a wilderness drive where you can stop to hike in the old growth forests, watch for critters in the lakes and woodlands or climb the fire tower for an amazing view of the countryside.
And they have preserved the history of the area – there’s an old cabin and log store from early settlers to the Lake Itasca area. The cabin is now serving as a history museum. They cover the native peoples that lived here, early settlers, the fight to prevent logging in the area, native plants and animals, and so on. A short hike will take you to native burial mounds.
The rangers offer multiple programs every day and Chloe really enjoyed their campfire program on local fish. She was ready to try her hand but John and I don’t fish and we didn’t run into anyone we could rope into fishing with her (Ming, where are you?)
We did tour both visitor centers, drove the wilderness loop, climbed the tower, hiked to the mounds, toured the other historic sites, browsed the gift shops, bought candy at the camp store, enjoyed the ranger campfire program, had our own campfire, and generally had a really good time.
ALWAYS I have regrets (I need to get over that). This time it was bikes. Lots of our stops I wished for our bikes but we chose not to bring them on this trip so we could only look longingly at all those happy people cruising along the trails. We considered renting them but cold rain rolled in and we decided it would be best to wait for another time.
I would like to add another blurb about John’s patience with me and my schedules. ALL the activities listed above took place during the two full days we were in the park (as well as the Headwaters activities in the next post). We had delays on the way in so we lost a half day of play time but still managed to cover a lot. AND we got ice cream. Chloe and I feel that is an important part of any touring experience.
If all these cool activities interest you, book early. We stayed three nights and had to move once because no campsites with electric were available for all three nights.