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.
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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.
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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.
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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 net near by.
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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.
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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 license, bait and tackle here, too.
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A 16-mile paved trail winds through Itasca State Park. Approximately six miles of this trail is an off-road, paved trail that extends from Douglas Lodge to the Headwaters area. From the Headwaters area, you may continue on the one-way 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.
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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.
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Revel in some peace and quiet on Brower Trail. Nestled alongside the east arm of Lake Itasca, extending from the fishing pier below Douglas Lodge to Bear Paw Campground, you will enjoy many beautiful views of the lake and thick pine forests along with sounds of chirping birds high up in the trees or scurrying rabbits and chipmunks on the forest floor.
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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.
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Climb aboard the 141-passenger Chester Charles II excursion boat for a cruise around Lake Itasca. The narrated tour follows the same route taken by Ozawindib in 1832 when he guided Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.
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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.
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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 required. 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.
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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.
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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.
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Douglas 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 the first Sunday in October.
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Douglas Lodge Guest Rooms
Upstairs in Douglas Lodge are the quaint, air-conditioned guest rooms. Three double rooms include a bathroom with shower. Four single rooms share two and a half-bathrooms with showers in the hallway. The rooms feature wood floors and simple decorating. Windows overlook parts of the lodge and forest.
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Douglas Lodge Grounds
Green grass, tall pines and newly planted trees surround the lodge. Lake Itasca is visible through the trees.
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This two-story log structure built in 1913 is our premier group lodging facility, great for family gatherings and celebrations, accommodating up to 21 guests. The clubhouse features 10 bedrooms, six bathrooms, a cozy common area with a fireplace and a large screen porch.
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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.
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Douglas Lodge Cabin Interior
The Douglas Lodge Cabins are a variety of log and stick built structures nestled in the towering pines on the south shore of Lake Itasca.
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Douglas Lodge Cabin Porch
Screened 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.
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The Four-Season Suites are open year-round and offer all the comforts of home including Wi-Fi and cable TV. The suites feature a cozy living area, a bedroom with queen beds, a kitchenette, a bathroom with tub/shower and a screen porch. Larger groups can connect adjacent units via interior and screen porch doors. Two of the 12 units are accessible.
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Bear Paw Cabins
These one-room log cabins building in 1936 and 1939 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.
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Bear Paw Cabin Interior
These studio-style cabins offer a cozy feel to your stay with a full bed and futon, (accommodating 4 guests) a fireplace and kitchenette. These units have a small washroom with showers located in the campgrounds.
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Located in the Old Park Headquarters building, across from the Itasca boat landing, the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel offers overnight lodging year-round. The hostel can accommodate up to 31 people in bedrooms that sleep up to six people per room.
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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.
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The spacious great room at the Forest Inn has gleaming hardwood floors, walls of log and stone, a large fireplace and chandeliers that light the room. Forest Inn is a great place to host a meeting or have that special wedding or family gathering. Opposite of the great room is the Forest Inn Gift Shop.
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Brower Visitor Center Exhibits
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, a mannequin of a forester and much, much more.
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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, pick up maps and other information and check in for lodging at the front desk. There is an onsite gift shop, public restrooms and a set of classrooms great for holding meetings or conferences. The visitor center is open year-round and the front half is used as a warming area during the peak winter season.
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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 offers outdoor exhibits, a gift shop and a café. The sidewalk from the parking lot leads past two flagpoles and a large metal globe en route to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. Along the accessible trail to the Headwaters, grasses and wildflowers grow on either side of the walkway and pine trees are visible in the distance.
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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.
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Mary Gibbs Gift Shop
Open Memorial Day weekend through MEA weekend, the Mary Gibbs Gift Shop is our largest gift shop and sells a variety of clothes, books, jewelry and other Itasca State Park souvenirs.
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Mary Gibbs Café
Open Memorial Day weekend through the first Sunday in October, the Mary Gibbs Café serves soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza in a bright cafeteria with paneled walls and lots of windows. A patio is also available for outdoor dining.