Is Itasca State Park worth the visit?

Old Jul 16th, 2018, 04:12 PM
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Is Itasca State Park worth the visit?

My husband and I will be spending 10 days in late August in Minnesota, including 4 nights from Duluth up to Grand Marias. Right now we are booked to drive through Grand Rapids and to Ithaca State Park before heading back to the Minneapolis. Is the drive scenic between the Luften area to Grand Rapids and Ithaca State Park? How's the drive from the state park back to Bloomington? I'm just trying to decide if it's worth seeing this region of Minnesota, or if we are better off skipping it and heading straight back to Minneapolis from the north shore region. We're planning around 4 full days in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, including a Twins game, a day at the Minnesota State Fair and a visit to MOA. Thanks for any insight and suggestions!
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 05:10 PM
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You want to see the headwaters of the Mississippi?
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 05:44 PM
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Dukey1 - Seeing the headway is not critical. While we would definitely make that part of our day in the park, I guess we are trying to decide if it's worth it if the rest of the travel to and from the park are not all that scenic or interesting. Is the time better off spent somewhere else in the state?
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Old Jul 16th, 2018, 06:09 PM
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If standing at this site
is not critical, then you can completely skip Itasca State Park. I've been there, and this is all there is to the park. Interesting, but only because it's the OFFICIAL headwaters of the Mississippi River.
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Old Jul 17th, 2018, 06:32 AM
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Itasca is 32,000 acres, has about 50 miles of hiking trails, 16 miles of bike paths, over 100 lakes and some of the oldest and largest stands of pine trees in the state. To say that the headwaters of the Mississippi is all there is to the park is a gross misrepresentation. I've been there as well so I can speak with some authority on the matter.

Having said that, I would not advise you to drive 4.5 hours from Lutsen to Itasca. The drive is definitely not as scenic as what you'll see driving along the North Shore, and it isn't any more scenic than most of the drives in northern Minnesota. The drive from Itasca to Bloomington is nothing special either.

If you want to visit another location, look at driving to Ely and visiting Bear Head Lake State Park and/or Soudan Underground Mine before heading back to the Twin Cities. Much closer than Itasca and will give you a similar feel for the northwoods without the longer drive.
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Old Jul 17th, 2018, 06:36 PM
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I stand corrected by WhereAreWe.

What I SHOULD have said was that, although Itasca is as great as other Minnesota State Parks I've visited (Cascade River, Frotenac, Gooseberry Falls, Grand Portage, Jay Cooke, Judge Magney, Minneopa, Split Rock, Temperance River, Tettogouche, Tower-Soudan, and more), the only reason to spend time there INSTEAD of these other great places (particularly those along the North Shore, one of my favorite places in the U.S.) would be to see the official headwaters.

But to say, as I did, that the ONLY thing there is the headwaters, is just plain WRONG.
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Old Jul 18th, 2018, 03:49 PM
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In lieu of Itasca State Park, is a visit to the Apostle Islands a better option? Or just concentrate on the state parks along the north shore? We are planning on traveling as far as Grand Marais. Is it worth traveling north to Thunder Bay? Thanks for all of the thoughtful insight.
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Old Jul 19th, 2018, 06:29 AM
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Apostle Islands are certainly an option, you can take the ferry over to Madeline Island. It all depends on what type of scenery and experience you're looking for. If you choose that route, you should plan on spending a full day in the area and probably stay overnight in Bayfield rather than drive to the Twin Cities immediately afterwards.

You won't see anything significantly different by driving to Thunder Bay. You could take a ferry from Grand Portage over to Isle Royale - that's a 2 hour ferry ride and would take you to one of the least visited national parks, but it's a pretty big time investment for a remote park.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2018, 12:56 PM
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Wow, the walkway as pictured is MUCH more advanced and apparently safer than when I walked across the Mississippi in 1990.

The path of stones was in a more narrow area, and there were FAR fewer stones, and you had to Frogger from stone to stone, as fish slithered to and fro between stones while you worried about how to avoid breaking an ankle IF you first slipped from the next stone and then tried to over-correct in a big, wet hurry.

With the experience of walking across the Mississippi River begin/seeming this much easier in 2018, then sure you should go to Itasca State Park and do just that.
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Old Jul 27th, 2018, 11:08 PM
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As Australians we were tickled pink to walk across the Missisippi.
Also stewed on Madeline Island - beautiful area .
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