We parked 4 nights at the Corps of Engineers Winnie Dam Campground, just downstream from the dam controlling the flow of the Mississippi River from Lake Winnibigoshish. The lake is 70 miles downstream from the recognized source of the river at Lake Itasca.
The campground was great – large level sites, nicely wooded and quiet. It has 22 spaces but there were just 3 rigs in it most nights we were there. The closest larger town is Grand Rapids MN.
On our way from Winnie Dam to Golden Eagle campground near Perham MN we stopped at Lake Itasca Sate Park to visit the head of the Mississippi River.
The Lake Itasca State Park Visitors Center has displays including the above explaining three ways of identifying the point of beginning of a river. It also diagrams the watershed of the Mississippi – a large area surrounded on three sides by moraines left by the last glacier in the area. The river flows north from this area, then east, southeasterly and finally southerly beginning at LaCrosse WI.
The three ways are:
1. The farthest point upstream where the first drop of water flows.
2.the farthest point upstream where the flow and volume constitutes a river.
3.The highest point in the river’s watershed.
The Lake Itasca outflow satisfies the second test. The watershed area above the lake is marshy and has at least 5 small streams feeding Lake Itasca.
This sign on the 800 ft. walk to the beginning of the outflow explains the early efforts to locate the
origin of the Mississippi. Although the day was rainy, many people were visiting the area.
Here is Jo at the sign identifying the point as the origin oft he Mississippi River. An other nearby sign explained the the river now is some 160 miles shorter due to straightening by the Corps of Engineers to eliminate oxbows.
This is the beginning of the outflow. Many visitors chose to walk across the Mississippi on the rocks.
And this is the river a few feet down from the outflow.