Established in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park.
More than 100 lakes.
32,690 acres. 500,000 annual visits
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. Bring or rent bicycles and tour up to 17 miles
of paved trail which including a mile long wooden bridge
over a lowland and opportunities to visit the famous headwaters of the
Mississippi and other park landmark. Refreshment breaks or meals
at the Douglas lodge or new Mary Gibb Headwaters Restaurant and gift
shop add to the enjoyment of the park.
Itasca Sport Rental facility offers bicycles, boat/motor, pontoons,
canoes/kayaks for in park recreational enjoyment.
Naturalist programs are available at Itasca State Park year-round.
The diversity of vegetation in Itasca State 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.
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
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.
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