Archive for the ‘Minnesota State Parks’ Category

Some of my family and friends are visiting for the holiday weekend.  Saturday, between bear burgers on the grill and bocce ball this afternoon and cheddar and wild rice brats, pizza, and peach pies over the bonfire this evening, we headed down to Itasca State Park for a hike to see the sights.  We made all of the usual stops in the park during an afternoon visit and I snapped a few views from the Aiton Heights Fire Tower as well.

North from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

East from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

South from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

West from Aiton Heights Fire Tower


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So I must apologize for my hiatus!  The last two weeks have been a sleep-when-you-can, blur of the wikis and project proposals, freelance articles and query letters, the American Revolution, Hinduism, the Western, and Paradise Lost as I entered the first stage of midterm exams, papers, and projects.  I’m happy to report that I pulled through just in time for a personal reward of fish and chips, The Glenlivet scotch whiskey, and Guinness stout at Brigid’s Cross after my last midterm Friday.  Now I plan to use spring break as a chance to get a running start on the next two-thirds of the semester.

One of the projects I will be working on in the coming weeks is my project for Weblogs and Wikis, which will be a set of blogs spearheaded by the Liberty Pines Ranch Breaks.  I am in the midst of gathering the resources for this assignment and I will make more information available on this as I begin to develop the project.

In the meantime, I was able to get out for the better part of a day a couple weeks ago to meet a friend and pay a visit to one of my favorite places – Itasca State Park.  This gave me the opportunity to add some wintry pictures to my extensive Itasca photo album as I have never visited the park in winter.  Plus, I could use the excursion as an extra credit assignment for my U.S. History to 1877 class. Itasca has the distinction of being known as the jewel of the Minnesota State Park system and is home to the Mississippi River Headwaters, some of the most gorgeous forest in the North Woods, and numerous historical sites and places.

Itasca State Park - East Arm Lake Itasca

This is a north-facing view of the east arm of Lake Itascafrom just below Douglas Lodge, not far from the point where in 1832, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft led by his Ojibwe guide, Ozawindib, first saw the source of the Mississippi River.  The name “Itasca” was derived by borrowing from the Latin words for “truth” and “head.”

Itasca State Park - Douglas Lodge

Historic Douglas Lodge was constructed between 1903-1905.  Originally called Itasca Park Lodge, it now bears the name of then Attorney General Wallace B. Douglas, who selected the building site overlooking the east arm of Lake Itasca.  The lodge was completed for a cost of $11,646.35.  In addition to the historic lodge, there are a variety of other facilities ranging from the Dormitory (1932) and the Clubhouse (1911), to the log cabins (1911) and the Fireplace Rooms (1937) to the Forest Inn (1938-1940).  Many of the facilities in the Douglas Lodge complex are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Itasca State Park - Old Timer’s Cabin

Looking west across the east arm, you can see the Old Timer’s Cabin, built in 1934 it was known as the “Honeymooner’s Cabin” to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Located 1/4 mile down the Dr. Roberts Self-guided Nature Trail, it’s most memorable feature is the huge white pine used to construct its 4-log high walls.

Preachers Grove, named for a preachers convention that once camped there, holds a nearly 300 year-old stand of towering red pine and was produced when the seeds for these giant trees sprouted after a forest fire swept the region in 1714.

Itasca State Park - Foot Bridge

The foot bridge that spans the ravine between Douglas Lodge and the Clubhouse.

Itasca State Park - South View on the East Arm

A south-facing shot further up the lake-side hiking trail along the east arm…

Itasca State Park - North View on the East Arm

…and looking north from the same trail.

Itasca State Park - Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center

Since its dedication in 2005, the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center has been an informational and educational visitors center worthy of the Great River.  This complex and the equally new Jacob V. Brower Visitors Center near the east entrance of the park have greatly complimented the parks historical sites and buildings with beautiful architecture and historical, geographical, geological, and  environmental exhibits.

Itasca State Park - 1475-2552

“Here 1,475 ft. above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on it’s winding way 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Views of the Headwaters…

Itasca State Park - Mississippi Headwaters

Itasca State Park - Mississippi Headwaters II

Itasca State Park - Mississippi Headwaters III

…yes, that’s a ice-fishing house just a couple hundred yards into the lake.

Itasca State Park - Infant Mississippi

The infant Mississippi, flowing north before turning south, a couple hundred yards into its voyage.

Itasca State Park - Old Northwest Territory

The Old Northwest Territory – A stone tablet at the Headwaters reads “Herein, under the Ordinance of 1787, began the westward expansion of this nation – the American Bill of Rights first nationally recognized – human slavery prohibited – primogeniture abolished – and the great new principle of colonies becoming equal in rights with parent states was established — Itasca Lake source of the Mississippi River, discovered by Henry R. Schoolcraft in 1832.  The Treaty of Paris, 1783, provided that the United States’ northwest boundary should extend from the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods to the Mississippi River.  Itasca was on this boundary.”

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Whitewater State Park manager Garry Barvels reports that the recovery efforts at Whitewater State Park are making steady progress in a news release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The park sustained over $4 million in damages during a flash flood last August.  A Grand Reopening Celebration is set for June 7, but parts of the park will begin reopening March 1.

There are two crucial reopening dates for my spring wild turkey hunt: 

  • April 1, when a limited number of the parks trails and streams will open for the catch and release trout fishing season.
  • April 11, when the Upper and Lower Cedar Hills Campgrounds will reopen.

Looks like there will be camping and trout fishing mixed in with our spring turkey hunt this year after all, and according to their upcoming events we can even do a little maple syruping.  This park is truly one of my favorite places in the state.  My reservations are made and I am excited to see the results of all the hard work by the recovery team and I applaud their efforts.

Our local Headwaters Gobblers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federationwill be holding their fundraiser banquet this Thursday, February 28th, at 5:30 PM at the Eagles Club in Bemidji, MN.  Get out and have some fun and support the gobblers!

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