The Great River Headwaters

For some time we had been wanting to check out the start of a river that marks over 2000 miles and travels across 10 states, weaving its way down into the Gulf of Mexico. So we headed to Minnesota's Itasca State Park to check out the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Along the way we detoured to investigate an interpretive trail that is home to towering white pines dating back to before the Declaration of Independence was signed! In fact, they were 70 years old in 1776! It was a great lesson on the importance of keeping our land pristine and setting it aside to offer the next generation to enjoy.

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The park itself was void of people this time of year. A bit chilly to weather, but nice to have a commonly busy place all to yourself. Since the temperatures were in the single digits, the ice had been forming on the lakes within the park, and were giving off 'Star Wars' blaster effects. Sounds of space guns echoing in the dead silent winter is fascinating for even the maturest of adults, for us it was a real treat. The phenomenon of singing ice is simply the frequencies of the crackling ice beneath the surface when the ice is shifting, usually during change in temperatures, and it can best be heard when there is no snow on top of the ice to absorb the sound.

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The final stop of course was the headwaters. A simple 600 foot walk that leads up to it takes you to a small body of water that trickles into a stream. For us, it was a bit surprising as we pondered the vast Mississippi as compared to the small amount of water we were seeing in front of us. Really everything about it was in strike opposition of what I had imagined. It was calm and peaceful, unlike it's state's sisterly raging rivers that we'd visited in other state parks. And we half expected it to be bustling with birds, since the cold winter had left it one of the few open waters around. We had heard from the park ranger that there was an otter nearby and had hoped he'd be brave enough to show his face, but instead felt unusually empty and barren. And yet, everything about the place intrigued us even though it hadn't met our expectations. 

The park and the headwaters gave us fresh new perspective on how something small can trickle down and make a big impact. The visit had left us a little bit perplexed, but it's what we love about nature! It's nice to have new territories to explore and be surprised by the inner workings. We highly recommend spending some time there if you haven't.

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