We made it to the headwaters of the Mississippi along with a few hundred other people. This photo shows what is called the origin of the Mississippi today, but it's really a dam built by man in the 1930's to prevent erosion of Lake Itasca into the river. The true headwaters (according to signs posted along the way) is a spring in the weeds that isn't clearly marked. It can be found somewhere in the following picture.
I couldn't help but compare this end of the great river with the southern end in New Orleans. Yes, the headwaters is smaller, narrower, and can be forded by even young children. The thing that most impressed me was the pristine clarity of the water. Even with dozens of people tromping around in the river above this picture, the water was clean and totally transparent. In St. Paul, the water already has a murky color caused by things being carried in the water. New Orleans . . . The best description of the New Orleans Mississippi was coffee with lots of cream in it.
Here are some fun facts about the Mississippi (click on the picture to enlarge it):
A surprise bit of information about Itasca State Park was that a young woman, Mary Gibbs, in 3 short months as park commissioner stood physically and philosophically against armed lumber jacks to prevent the destruction of the Lake Itasca area due to logging. Single-handedly this woman made a huge difference in the ecology of Itasca State Park and managed to preserve a beautiful area for future generations. All this happened in 1903, long before the feminist movement! I couldn't help but smile at the contrast of Mary in her Victorian dress reading in the rustic log cabin she called home.
The Ojibwe culture sees women as sacred keepers of the water, and although Mary was not Ojibwe, she certainly fulfilled the woman's role of keeping the water pristine and renewable for future generations.