By Jim Umhoefer
At its birth in Itasca State Park, the Father of Waters is a humble brook that bubbles over rocks and flows quietly between narrow, wooded banks. But as it winds through Minnesota for almost 700 miles in great serpentine curves, the growing river lives up to its name. From its wilderness origins, the Mississippi River is transformed into a broad, commercially busy river at the Twin Cities and below. Families and beginning canoeists can enjoy canoeing on the river, now substantially subdued by dams.
The first white man to see the river was Hermando De Soto, in 1541. Though many tried to find its source, it was not until 1832 that Henry Schoolcraft and his Ojibway guide, Ozawindib, discovered the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca. Most of the wildlife and scenery that Schoolcraft saw on his quest are still part of a canoeist's experience on the 60-mile stretch between Lake Itasca and Lake Bemidji. In this portion, marshes alternate with 60-foot banks cloaked with jack, red and white pines. Read more: