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Minnesota State Parks

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USA Parks
Heartland Region
Itasca State Park
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Itasca State Park © bobby hissam
Itasca State Park Douglas Lodge © Bud Smith
Built by the W.P.A. Workers
Itasca State Park Visitor Center © Bud Smith
Itasca State Park Lake Itasca © Bud Smith
Itasca State Park Start of the Mississippi River © Bud Smith
The Mighty Mississippi Start Here at Itasca Lake. Flows 2552 miles to the Gulf.
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
Itasca State Park Preachers Grove © Nancy Bauer
Itasca State Park The Big White Pine © Betsy Cox
Itasca State Park Firetower © Betsy Cox
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
Itasca State Park © Elizabeth Adams
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36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, Minnesota   56470

Phone: 218-266-2100
Toll Free: 888-646-6367
Reservations: 866-857-2757
Email: park email button icon
Established in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park. Today, the park totals more than 32,000 acres and includes more than 100 lakes. Walk across the mighty Mississippi as it starts its winding journey 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Stand under towering pines at Preacher's Grove. Visit the Itasca Indian Cemetery or Wegmann's Cabin, landmarks of centuries gone by. Camp under the stars, or stay the night at the historic Douglas Lodge or cabins. Explore Wilderness Drive past the 2,000-acre Wilderness Sanctuary, one of Minnesota's seven National Natural Landmarks.
Nature of the Area
At Itasca State Park, the mighty Mississippi River begins its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Established in 1891 to preserve remnant stands of virgin pine and to protect the basin around the Mississippi's source, this park has become a famous natural and cultural landmark in North America.

The landscape region in which the park is located was formed at the leading edge of repeating glacial advances. This northern pine moraine forms ranges of hills containing coarse, gravelly materials and boulders pock-marked with countless lakes, ponds and bogs. This terrain is sometimes referred to as "knob and kettle." The knobs are mounds of debris deposited directly by the ice near the glacier's edge or by melt-water streams flowing on or under the glacier surface. The kettles are depressions, usually filled with water, formed by stagnant ice masses buried or partially buried under glacial debris. The retreat of the ice left many lakes of varying size.

Wildlife. The diversity of vegetation in the park supports many wildlife species. Birding is excellent and visitors are encouraged to help spot and record the bird life they see in the park. Some birds you can expect to see include loons, grebes, cormorants, herons, ducks, owls, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, kinglets, vireos, tanagers, finches, and warblers. Trails in the park are shared with deer, chipmunks, and squirrels. Beaver, porcupine, black bears, and wolves also reside in the park.

History of the Area
Some 8,000 years ago, Indian hunters pursued wild animals for food in the Itasca State Park region. These early people ambushed bison, deer, and moose at watering sites and killed them with stone-tipped spears. The Bison Kill site along Wilderness Drive in the park gives visitors more history about this period. A few thousand years later, a group of people of the Woodland Period arrived at Lake Itasca. They lived in larger, more permanent settlements and made a variety of stone, wood, and bone tools. Burial mounds from this era can be seen today at the Itasca Indian Cemetery. In 1832, Anishinabe guide Ozawindib, led explorer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to the source of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca. It was on this journey that Schoolcraft, with the help of an educated missionary companion, created the name Itasca from the Latin words for "truth" and "head" by linking adjoining syllables: verITAS CAput, meaning "true head." In the late 1800s, Jacob V. Brower, historian, anthropologist and land surveyor, came to the park region to settle the dispute of the actual location of the Mississippi Headwaters. Brower saw this region being quickly transformed by logging, and was determined to protect some of the pine forests for future generations. It was Brower's tireless efforts to save the remaining pine forest surrounding Lake Itasca that led the state legislature to establish Itasca as a Minnesota State Park on April 20, 1891, by a margin of only one vote. Through his conservation work and the continuing efforts of others throughout the decades, the splendor of Itasca had been maintained.
1. Itasca State Park offers two sandy beaches for swimming: one at Douglas Lodge and another near the Bear Paw Campground.
2. The park's clear, calm waters are perfect for both experienced swimmers and beginners alike.
3. Swimming is allowed from sunrise to sunset within designated areas only.
4. Lifeguards aren't provided; visitors swim at their own risk so safety precautions should be taken seriously.
5. Children under 14 must have adult supervision while in or around water bodies in the park area.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of boating activities. The park offers boat rentals including rowboats, kayaks, paddleboards and canoes for use on Lake Itasca. There are also several public water accesses available throughout the park for those who bring their own boats. Motorized boats are allowed but must adhere to speed limit restrictions in certain areas to protect wildlife habitats.
Enjoy fishing in over 100 lakes, with species like Northern Pike, Walleye, Bass and Sunfish. Boat rentals are available.

Lake Itasca offers excellent opportunities for catching Bluegill and Crappie. Fishing gear can be rented on-site.

For a unique experience try ice-fishing during winter months; you might land a large Perch or Tullibee.

Trout Pond is stocked annually with Rainbow Trout offering an exciting angling option especially for fly fishermen.

Fishing from the shore of Peace Pipe Vista could yield Largemouth Bass while enjoying scenic views around you.

Remember to follow catch-and-release guidelines when targeting rare Muskellunge found in some park waters.

1. Itasca State Park offers numerous picnic areas with tables and grills.
2. Picnic shelters are available for large group gatherings.
3. Enjoy a lakeside picnic at Lake Itasca's sandy beach area.
4. Some sites offer stunning views of the park's natural beauty while you eat.
5. The Douglas Lodge provides indoor picnicking options during inclement weather.

Biking enthusiasts can explore over 16 miles of paved bike trails. Be aware, the terrain varies from flat to hilly.

The Heartland State Trail offers a scenic ride through dense forests and along sparkling lakeshores. Exercise caution on uneven surfaces.

Mountain bikers will find challenging routes in this area as well but should be prepared for rougher paths with potential obstacles.

For those without their own bikes, rentals are available at reasonable rates; however, availability may vary so plan accordingly.

Remember that helmets are strongly recommended while biking here due to safety concerns related to varying trail conditions.

In winter months, fat tire biking is allowed on groomed snowmobile trails only - please adhere strictly to these rules for your safety.

Please note: all cyclists must respect wildlife and other park visitors by following established etiquette guidelines such as yielding right-of-way when necessary.

Birdwatchers can enjoy over 200 bird species, including the common loon and bald eagle. The park offers guided birding walks during summer months. Bird checklists are available at Jacob V Brower Visitor Center for self-guided tours. Observation decks provide optimal viewing spots throughout the year.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
August 2 boat, hiking, history by Liisa
park review stars; one to five I love the park since I was a child. From the time myyounger brother slipped off rock crossing the river and started cring, his foot got wet. Now hes in his 40s and loves hiking and camping
June 26 Lots to do and explore! by Park Hopper...
park review stars; one to five I really like this park. Only problem is that a lot of other people do too, so it is always crowded and hard to reserve a campsite. It is a beautiful park!
March 30 my familys fave park cuz of geocaching
park review stars; one to five i love this park cuz theres lots of geocaches there
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Entrance to the park is 21 miles north of Park rapids on U.S. Highway 71. From Bemidji the park is 30 miles south on US Hwy 71.

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Minnesota State Parks