Minnesota Great River Road – Headwaters Region


[narr] Lake Itasca , the source of the Mississippi River. from here this trickle of water will spend about 90 days flowing downhill over 2500 miles to get to the Gulf of Mexico. The name Itasca was given to it by the explorer Henry Schoolcraft in 1832. It’s a combination of two latin words veritas for true and caput for head, true head. 60 years later, Jacob Brower lobbied the Minnesota legislature to make the area the first Minnesota state park and as a result saved it from being logged. Today Itasca State Park is a scenic wonderland filled with wilderness opportunities and some of the oldest pine forests in Minnesota. Much like a wayward child testing its limits, the mighty Mississippi begins its journey to the gulf heading the wrong direction. It flows northeast to Bemidji, the first city on the river. [man] The name Bemidji means crossing waters and I believe that essentially it was a logging camp a lot of lumberjacks and people cutting trees and virgin forests that was a marvelous staple to cut and harvest and limb and float down the river to sawmills and provide lumber for a budding growing nation. [narr] Logging is no longer the main reason to come to Bemidji. you can come here to further your education at Bemidji State University or Northland Technical College. The city has a collegiate feel. over 40 sculptures and murals grace this city, without a doubt the most famous is the legendary Paul Bunyan & Babe his blue ox. [man] It’s a historic national landmark and has been around since the 30s and countless pictures have been taken with people posing in front of it. [narr] The Beltrami County History Center is housed in a beautifully restored railroad depot next to where the Mississippi River enters Lake Bemidji. [woman] This building was built in 1912, it was a Great Northern railroad depot and it was active until 1967 when the passenger train stopped running then it closed down and it actually was empty until 2001 when we moved in. [narr] The barrier that keeps the river from flowing further north is the Laurentian Divide, Bemidji is on the south side of the divide. the Buena Vista ski area just north of Bemidji straddles the divide. [woman] We have a ski area that we have been operating for 62 years and it was started by my grandfather Leonard R. Dickinson and now it’s in the 5th generation of the Dickinson family. my great great grandfather owned Summitt hotel and he would say that the waters dripping off the west side would go to the Hudson Bay and waters dripping off the east side of his roof would go to the Gulf of Mexico. [man] Also we have the Cass Lake Red Lake Trail which is part of the indigenous people who lived here, the Leech Lake band, the Red Lake band a thoroughfare of people who would by ox and cart carry goods from the Cass Lake area up to the Red Lake area. very many portions of it are still visible in their natural setting. From Bemidji the Great River Road heads east around the chain of lakes, Bemidji, Andrusia, Cass where you can find dozens of resorts providing modern day explores ample opportunity for adventure. and we’ll continue our adventure in the next section of the Great River Road. for more information about this area or the rest of the Great River Road, visit our website mnmississippiriver.com

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