Greetings From: Lake Itasca, MN

Lake Itasca is known as the headwaters of the Mississippi, but the fall colors were as much of a draw as the river.

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

Itasca.

You might think it’s an Indian name. 

Indeed, it may have been based on the Indian words for a woman’s breast.

Or it may have been created from the Latin words veritas and caput, meaning “truth head”. 

Different stories, but coming from the same person. 

A person well-known to anyone interested in Ozark history.  

Years before Henry J. Schoolcraft discovered and named the source of the Mississippi River, he undertook a three-month, 900-mile trip through the White River Valley area of the Ozarks. 

He chronicled those experiences in Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, which served as an (unfavorable) introduction of the Ozarks to the more modern society back east.

We weren’t as adventurous as Mr. Schoolcraft. But like him and many other early explorers, we were curious about the mighty Mississippi.  

We came up with a goal.

MsBoyink crosses the not-yet-mighty Mississippi at the headwaters near Lake Itasca in Minnesota.

We wanted to drive the entire length of the Mississippi River. North to south. Minnesota to Louisiana. Lumberjacks to Cajuns. Curling to jazz. 

So we started at the source.

Lake Itasca is in northern Minnesota, roughly 100 miles from the Canadian border.

We arrived in early October. Temps were chilly. The park was mostly deserted. But the forest was ablaze in fully saturated fall colors. 

We made camp for three nights, ate around a campfire, and hiked trails in the colorful woods.

And we kicked off our 2000+ mile trip by getting wet.

We rolled up our pants and waded across the entire Mississippi River.

All twenty feet of it.

Enjoying more fall color around Lake Itasca.

Then, with the weather turning and the schedule calling, we decided it was time to hitch up and head south to follow the river.

We were wrong.

Because for the first 30 miles or so, the Mississippi River doesn’t go south.

It flows north.

Then, in a shepherd-hook shaped turn peaking near the town of Bemidji, Minnesota, the river swings back to its true south-flowing course.

It was a good reminder. 

Life has had unexpected twists and turns. Poor decisions. Bad relationships. Rebellion. 

But no matter which direction we meander off heading, God is in control. He sets the destination and direction of our lives.

He can swing us back and get going in the direction we need to go.

He is our “truth head.”

Our Itasca.

Itasca State Park is open year round, with limited services available during the winter. Learn more at dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks.