Itasca State Park Snapshot Tour

Welcome to the Itasca State Park virtual tour! In this journey you'll stand at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, go inside Douglas Lodge, and get a birds-eye-view from an observation tower. We hope it prompts you to visit the park in person sometime soon.

Photo of the Mississippi headwaters.
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Mississippi Headwaters

At Itasca State Park, the mighty Mississippi River begins its slow and steady stream toward the Gulf of Mexico. Established in 1891 to preserve remnant stands of virgin pine and to protect the basin around the Mississippi's source, Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park. With annual visits totaling nearly half a million each year, it is also one of the busiest. In 1832, Anishinabe guide Ozawindib, led explorer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to the source of the Mississippi River at pristine, blue Lake Itasca. Today, visitors from around the world enjoy walking across the world's third longest river by stepping from rock to rock to reach the opposite shore. Alternatives include walking across a log bridge or wading through the shallow water.

Photo of the Mississippi Headwaters monument.
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Headwaters Monument

Many visitors have had their picture taken beside the iconic Mississippi headwaters monument, a tall tree stump painted brown with carved, yellow lettering that says, "Here 1475 feet above the ocean, the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico." Near the monument are log benches, where you can sit and take in the view of Lake Itasca and the surrounding majestic pine trees.

Photo of the swimming beach at Lake Itasca.
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Swimming Beach

A popular place to enjoy a cool, refreshing dip in the lake on a hot day, the swimming beach at Lake Itasca is sandy and scenic, with a playground, picnic shelter, and volleyball area.

Photo of the Lake Itasca boat dock and access. 4 of 33

Boat Dock and Access

Visit the boat dock near the beach on Lake Itasca and enjoy some time on the water! Here you can launch your boat for some great fishing or head out for a scenic tour of the lake in a canoe. Experience the tranquility, calmness, and serenity of being on the water

Photo of Itasca Sports' concession booth.
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Stop by lakeside concessionaire Itasca Sports to rent boats, motors, canoes, pontoons, paddleboats and kayaks. A variety of bicycles are also available, including tandem and electric bikes. If you're going fishing, you can get your bait and tackle here, too.

Photo of the paved bike trail.
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Bike Trail

A 16-mile paved trail winds through Itasca State Park. Approximately six miles of this trail is an off-road, paved trail that goes from Douglas Lodge to the Headwaters area. The remainder is the Wilderness Drive Loop that is shared with automobiles. Take a break at one of the trailside benches and enjoy the diverse forest community of trees, plants, and animals.

Photo of a segment of the scenic Wilderness Drive Loop.
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Park Drive

The Wilderness Drive Loop offers a scenic tour of Itasca State Park. Along the route, you'll be able to admire the tall north woods trees that tower over the road, forming a grand and beautiful canopy above. Keep an eye out for deer, squirrels, and other forest creatures scampering around in the underbrush.

Photo of the Brower Trail, along the shore of Lake Itasca.
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Brower Trail

Revel in some peace and quiet on Brower Trail. Nestled alongside the east arm of Lake Itasca, you'll be able to hear the steady stream of water as it flows past you. On the other side, a thick pine forest. Other forest sounds may include the chirping of the birds high up in the trees or the scurrying of rabbits and chipmunks on the forest floor.

Photo of Prechers Grove, a stand of towering red pines.
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Preachers Grove

Inland from the lake sits Preachers Grove. Not much light hits the forest floor during the day, but at sunrise and sunset, the sun peers through the trunks of the towering red pines, casting long shadows of the tall trees beside the lake.

Photo of the Chester Charles II excursion boat, available for tours on Lake Itasca.
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Tour Boat

Climb aboard the 141-passenger Chester Charles II excursion boat for a cruise around Lake Itasca. The tour, narrated by a park naturalist, follows the same route taken by Ozawindib in 1832 when he guided Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Photo of seating area on the tour boat deck.
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Tour Boat Deck

The two-story excursion boat has plenty of windows on the first floor and a covered observation deck on the second that provides a 360-degree view of Lake Itasca and the surrounding shoreline. Sit back and relax as a naturalist highlights points of interest on a tour that last about two hours.

Photo of a truck and camper set up at the Itasca State Park RV campground.
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Park the RV or set up the tent and make yourself at home in the Itasca State Park campgrounds, where hundreds of campsites are available, but reservations are recommended, especially on summer weekends. After a day of exploring the park, you can relax around a campfire and roast s'mores or sit and have a chat with other campers while admiring the surrounding forest. At sundown, keep an ear open for the loon calls and listen to the chirping of crickets.

Photo of the porch in front of the historic Douglas Lodge.
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Douglas Lodge Porch

This picturesque, two-story log building is Historic Douglas Lodge, a charming place to stay with a full-service restaurant on the first floor. Built in 1905, it is located on the south shore of Lake Itasca, with parking in front and easy access to trails.

Photo of the parlor and sitting area inside Douglas Lodge.
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Douglas Lodge Parlor

Inside Douglas Lodge is a cozy parlor with a sitting area, great for a chat and a cup of coffee. In addition to hardwood floors and log walls, the window-lined room is furnished with antiques and has a large fireplace. A staircase leads to the guest rooms on the second floor.

Photo of a corner table inside the Douglas Lodge Restaurant.
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Lodge Restaurant

Also located in the Douglas Lodge is a full-service restaurant with paneled walls and windows overlooking the lake. The restaurant is open Memorial weekend through early October.

Photo of one of the air-conditioned guest rooms inside Douglas Lodge.
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Lodge Guest Room

Upstairs in Douglas Lodge are the quaint, air-conditioned guest rooms. Three suites include a bathroom with shower. Four single rooms share two half-bathrooms, with showers in the hallway. Bedding and linens are supplied. The rooms feature wood floors and simple decorating. Windows overlook parts of the lodge and forest.

Photo of the grounds in front of the main lodge. 17 of 33

Lodge Grounds

Green grass, tall pines, and newly planted trees surround the lodge, and Lake Itasca is visible through the trees.

Photo of the Clubhouse interior, featuring a log staircase and stone fireplace.
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With 10 bedrooms, six washrooms, and a large common area, this two-story log building, known as the Clubhouse, is ideal for groups. Chairs, couches and log benches surround a fireplace, and doors open into sunny, first-floor bedrooms. A log staircase leads to more guest rooms on the second floor, which has a wrap-around balcony overlooking the main level. Outside, a large, screened porch overlooks Lake Itasca.

Photo of one of the Douglas Lodge cabins with a view of Lake Itasca.
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Douglas Lodge Cabins

Surrounded by woods and wildlife, the Douglas Lodge Cabins offer a view of nearby Lake Itasca. The cabins range in size from one to three bedrooms and can accommodate up to eight guests. Picnic tables and fire rings allow you to cook and eat your meals outside with nature.

Photo of the interior of one of the Douglas Lodge cabins.
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Cabin 6 Interior

Inside the Douglas Lodge Cabins you will find a common room with a sofa and chairs on hardwood floors. This cabin, like most, has a fireplace and a screen porch. The bed in the adjoining room is covered with a quilt. There are no inside cooking facilities or refrigerator.

Photo of the covered porch on one of the Douglas Lodge cabins.
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Cabin Porch

Windows cover three sides of the porch, providing a fantastic view of the surrounding forest and lake. Plenty of seating is available, and wooden tables provide a place to put your book or cup of coffee.

Photo of the living room in the modern Four Season Suites.
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Four Season Suites

The modern Four Season Suites can accommodate up to four adults per unit. Amenities include a kitchenette with a refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave; bathroom with shower/tub combo; Internet access, and phone. The carpeted living room even has a TV. Patio doors lead out to the screen porch. The bedroom has two queen beds, a desk, and lounge chair. The light brown of the log furniture matches the paneled ceilings and wood trim throughout the suite.

Photo of one of the one-room Bear Paw cabins.
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Bear Paw Cabins

These one-room log cabins are located in the Bear Paw Campground, a wooded area near the lake. In this photo, sun shines through the canopy and lightly bathes the dark-brown cabins with sunlight.

Photo of the interior of a Bear Paw Cabin.
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Bear Paw Cabin Interior

Each of the Bear Paw Cabins has a kitchenette, a washroom, and a fireplace. In addition to a bed nestled in the corner, furnishings include a wooden table and chairs, and a sofa. Pictures and maps are framed on the walls, and the windows are adorned with curtains.

Photo of the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel, open year-round.
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Located in the Old Park Headquarters building, across from the Itasca boat landing, the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel This link leads to an external site.offers overnight lodging year-round. The hostel can accommodate up to 31 people in bedrooms that sleep up to six people per room.

Photo of the reception/living area inside the hostel.
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Hostel Interior

The main reception area has log walls, wood floors, and a couch that goes the length of one wall. In the corner sits a reception desk covered with maps and guides. The adjacent room has canary-colored walls, off-white carpet, brown-leather lounge chairs, a fireplace, and bookcases.

Photo of the spacious great room in the Forest Inn.
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Forest Inn

The spacious great room at the Forest Inn has gleaming hardwood floors, walls of log and stone, and a large fireplace. Chandeliers light the room, which can be used for receptions and meetings.

Photo of the interior of the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.
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Brower Visitor Center

In spring 2002, Itasca State Park got a new landmark—the 13,000-square-foot Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, where you can gather and discover all there is to see and do in the park before you begin your adventure outdoors. Displays and exhibits feature a bald eagle in flight, a stuffed black bear, a tent, and a mannequin of a firefighter.

Photo of the entry into the Brower Visitor Center.
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Brower Visitor Center

On either side of the entrance are seating areas with fireplaces. Visitors can purchase state park vehicle permits and pick up maps and other information at the front desk. Behind the desk, a gift shop sells books, clothing, and other souvenirs. Down the hall are public restrooms.

Photo of the exterior of the Mary Gibbs Center.
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Mary Gibbs Center

The Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center, which opened in 2005, is named for a woman who risked her life to protect and save Itasca State Park's magnificent pine forest from loggers. The Center provides space for exhibits, a gift shop, and a restaurant. The sidewalk from the parking lot leads past two flagpoles and a large metal globe en route to the building. Grasses and wildflowers grow on either side of the walkway, and pine trees are visible in the distance, along the trail to the Headwaters.

Photo of the year-round interpretive displays just outside the Mary Gibbs Center.
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Mary Gibbs Portico

Outdoor interpretive displays are available for viewing year-round at the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center. The displays are located under a portico attached to the Center.

Photo of goods for sale in the Mary Gibbs gift shop.
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Mary Gibbs Gift Shop

The Mary Gibbs Gift Shop sells clothes, books, jewelry, and other Itasca State Park souvenirs.

Photo of the bright and spacious interior of the Mary Gibbs Restaurant.
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Mary Gibbs Restaurant

Open Memorial weekend through mid-fall, the Mary Gibbs Restaurant serves soups, salads, and sandwiches in a bright cafeteria with paneled walls, lots of windows, and wooden tables and chairs. A patio is also available for outdoor dining.

Virtual Tours

Itasca State Park home page

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This program is made possible by funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.