Within the borders of Lake Itasca State Park, about twenty miles southwest of Bemidji, Minnesota, flow the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The source of the Mississippi River was discovered in 1832, when Ojibwe Chief Ozawindib guided Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to the lake.
On the left is Lake Itasca. On the right, the Mississippi River. It’s about three feet deep at the deepest spot, and a lot of fun to wade across.
You’d never suspect this is North America’s mighty Mississippi River.
After we left the headwaters, we got lunch at the Headwaters Cafe (more of a snack bar, really) and headed off down the park drive to check out the old fire watch tower. It’s about a fifteen minute drive.
The hike from the parking lot to the fire watch tower is a little more than half a mile, uphill, and a pretty good workout for the average person. We were walking up this trail when we first caught a glimpse of the Aiton Heights Fire Tower through the trees. It’s on the other side of a lake and my wife Rebecca said, “That looks like more than half a mile.”
You get to the top of the hill, and there are still plenty of stairs to climb.
The sign at the bottom warns no more than six people on the tower at a time. On the day we visited, there was no ranger on-site.
After a strenuous climb to the top, you’re rewarded with a stunning view. These photos were taken in the spring and the trees were just budding.
It was a pretty breezy day, and while we were at the top, we could feel the tower swaying. There were three of us, then two more people showed up at the top. And below us, four more people started climbing the tower, apparently oblivious to the sign warning of a six person limit. We climbed down.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC