Sunday, June 26, 2022
Temperature 68 Degrees, Overcast, High Winds
I Waded Across the Mighty Mississippi River
We awoke this morning to a cold and windy day. Yet that was not going to stop us from going out to do some sightseeing and to also cross another item off our bucket list.
Have you ever wondered where the mighty Mississippi River starts? Have you ever wondered how big it would be at its headwaters? Have you ever wondered if you could actually wade across the Mississippi River without drowning?
Today, no matter the weather we were going to answer all three of the above questions. So, after church and breakfast we set out on our quest.
Regarding the first question, where the Mississippi begins.
In the early days of our country, the Mississippi River formed the western-most boundary of the United States. Thus it was important to know its true location, from its beginning to its end.
Thus, from the mid 1700’s there was a parade of explorers determined to add their name to a particular lake or stream or pond and claim it as the source of the Mississippi River. However, all failed to find the true beginning of the river for two reasons: no detailed maps of the area existed at the time; and, they all failed to enlist the help of the local American Indians who knew their own homeland.
Finally, in 1832 United States Government Explorer Henry Roe Schoolcraft while along the south shore of Lake Superior, encounters Ojibwe leader Ozawindib. He agrees to take Schoolcraft and his party to the place he knows to be the source of the Mississippi River. They paddle up the Schoolcraft River and portage through the woods to what is known today as Lake Itasca, the lake known by the Ojibwe Indians as the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
To confirm this location as the true beginning of the Mississippi, in 1888 statesman, archaeologist and surveyor Jacob V Brower begins his survey of the Itasca basin and confirms it as the as the true source of the Mississippi River.
So now we know where it begins, the second question regards the size of the headwaters.
This is the marker that is at the headwaters today. This historic marker was erected in 1930, and indicates the Mississippi River’s total mileage as 2,552 miles. Since then the river’s course has been shortened and altered by flooding and channeling. Today the distance to the Gulf of Mexico is more like 2,318 miles.
The headwaters today. It should be noted that this area was created by the Civilian Conservation Corp to create a more pleasant experience for visitors. They created the small rock dam in the photos above, and
a small channel that flows a short distance from the rock dam.
After that the river’s channel appears much as it did when Henry Rowe Schoolcraft discovered the source in 1832. Water ripples across a sandy gravel bottom through a channel lined with cattails, tamarack trees, and sedge.
It is really hard to believe when you stand and look at it, that this is the river that tug boats and large ships move up and down on a regular basis. This is the same river of historic floods and wide-scale devastation. Yet, from this tiny trickle comes such a formidable river.
OK, regarding the third question, can you actually wade across the Mississippi River? That is a resounding YES!
Option number one is to cross using the rocks that make up the dam. That appeared to easy to me. Besides which, rocks can be slippery and I didn’t want to end up in the river in front of so many people. Yet, a lot of people like to cross this way. Especially the kids. You’ll find them scooting back and forth without a care in the world.
Option number two, just wade on across from east to west and back again. So, shoes off and away I went. I expected the water to be freezing but was delighted when I discovered it was quite warm. I had on water shoes so the gravel on the bottom was of no concern. Actually, I believe this is the easier way to get across. What the heck, it is also a lot of fun!
Safely on the other side. A couple of big rocks over there you had to climb around but they didn’t really create a problem.
On my way back. Oh yes, I was having a wonderful time. The funny thing is, I was probably the only adult willing to wade over and back. What gives with adults today? So many party poopers. Most of them just stood and watched the kids, and the big kid at heart do their thing.
Back where I started from. Oh yea, I had a blast from start to finish.
But wait, there is still one other way to do the crossing. Option number three is to
cross over using the log bridge.
Ms. Barbara was not up to getting wet so she took this route. She can still say with pride that I walked crossed the mighty Mississippi!
Well, I’ve now crossed another item off my bucket list of things to see and do. Moreover, I can now say I’ve been on the Mississippi at both ends – here at Lake Itasca, and on a River Boat in New Orleans. It’s a great life that two of us live.
Some bonus stuff if you will
This sculpture is entitled Heartwaters-Caretaker Women. In Ojibwe belief it is the women who are the Caretakers of the Water. Here’s what I learned about this sculpture: In this sculpture, a woman is leaning over releasing a small clutch of turtles from a basket, renewing the seasons and continuing the waters of life. Her flowing hair is like flowing water.
The turtle’s round shell represents the earth, moon, sun and seasonal cycles. The legs of the turtle point in the four directions, his head points up to honor Grandfather Son, and his tail points down towards Mother Earth. Turtles show us all directions of life -they live in the water, they walk on land and breath air.
Some interesting facts
There is so much more that we learned today. Between the headwaters park and the Lake Itasca Visitor’s Center we had a fantastic day packed with new experiences and all kinds of learning opportunities. What more can you ask for.
One more thing, want to see the headwaters live? Google headwaters of the Mississippi, click on the first entry which is Mississippi River Headquarters and you’ll be taken to a page with a live web cam of the area. But really the only way to do it up right is to go yourself. Put it on your bucket list and find a way to visit the region. You’ll have a blast. And something you can brag about to others I walked across the Mississippi.
Which is exactly what my new T-Shirt proudly proclaims!
Thanks again for spending some time with us. It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.
Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.