Finding the source: traveling to the headwaters

The Upper Mississippi River is a series of winding channels, intricate wetlands and expansive pools. A driving tour along Minnesota’s Great River Road, which runs along this beautiful stretch of waterway, is a scenic delight.

Mississippi River Visitor Center
Mississippi River Visitor Center
Museum, Theater, Interpretive Center | Visitor or Interpretive Center
In downtown St. Paul, the Mississippi River Visitor Center is a great place to start your trip to the headwaters. Admission is free and you can learn about Mississippi River culture, biology and history.

For more information click here.

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Historic Downtown Little Falls, Minnesota
Historic Downtown Little Falls, Minnesota
Community | Appealing Downtown Area
The boyhood home of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh is here in Little Falls and it’s a worthwhile stop. Other attractions in Little Falls include the Minnesota Fishing museum and the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Museum. Little Falls is a great place to spend the night before continuing to the headwaters.


Little Falls boasts an award winning historic downtown district showcasing many buildings restored to their 1890's appearance. With logging and milling firms using the power of the natural falls, supporting…

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Brainerd, Minnesota
Brainerd, Minnesota
Community | Village or Town
Be sure to stop for a photo opportunity with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. A quick 10 minute drive east of Brainerd will take you to the home of these famous statues. In addition to Paul and Babe, Brainerd is also a well-known fishing and golfing destination.

Brainerd is known as Minnesota's playground and lies in the heart of the Brainerd Lakes Area. Immersing your family or friends in the beauty of Brainerd area forests, lakes, and rivers. Enjoy birding, hiking, biking, skiing, fishing, boating,…

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Central School
Central School
Community | Historic Site or District
Grand Rapids is another rewarding place to visit. Area attractions in Grand Rapids include the Central School, a historic building that contains, shops, offices and an artist-in-residence space. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Central School, located in downtown Grand Rapids, was built in 1895 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. The three story building served as an elementary school from 1895 to 1972. The restored building now contains shops, offices,…

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North Country National Scenic Trail at Itasca State Park MN
North Country National Scenic Trail at Itasca State Park MN
Outdoor Adventure | Hiking Trail or Trailhead
Our journey ends where the Mississippi River begins, at Lake Itasca State Park. It is here, at 1,475 feet above sea level, the great river embarks on its journey south to the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll have a chance to dip your hands in the true source of the Mississippi River—or even take off your shoes and wade across. There’s also some fantastic hiking in the park and it’s a great place to stretch your legs.

From North CountryTrail, the hiker will be able to take spur trails to Douglas Lodge, DeSoto Lake and Lake Itasca, headwaters of the Mississippi River. Campgrounds and services can be found in the Park.

Striking views of DeSoto Lake…

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Great River Road

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Trip Plan Details


In This Trip Plan

1 Mississippi River Visitor Center
2 Historic Downtown Little Falls, Minnesota
3 Brainerd, Minnesota
4 Central School
5 North Country National Scenic Trail at Itasca State Park MN