mississippi river

Mississippi River Featured Destination:

Mississippi National River & Recreation Area
Saint Paul, Minnesota

The Mississippi River reveals its beginnings in Minnesota at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area before growing to mythic proportions and winding its way through the heart of America, not unlike a Mark Twain tale.

The mighty Mississippi is the stuff of legend, yet based on mind-blowing facts. Combined with the Missouri River, it is the fourth longest river in world, over 2,300 miles long, bringing water across 31 states. The 72 miles within Minnesota's park is the most diverse stretch of the river, plunging from its only waterfall, pushing through a wooded gorge and finally opening broadly to make room for the steamboats and barges it is known to carry.

The otters that hang out on the river are harbingers of a healthy Mississippi, eating the mussels and fish that thrive there. You can try to spot the shy critters by following their tracks and scat. The area is also home to one of the largest groups of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. They roost in the pines along the Mississippi River banks.

Best Time to Visit:

There are dozens of riverside state and local parks making up the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and all offer plenty to do year round, depending on the season. There is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, hiking amongst wildflower in spring, canoeing in summer and fishing in the fall.

What to Do:

Drive the Great River Road - follow the green steamboat pilot wheel signs - for the best views of the Mississippi and make stops to experience it up close along the way. Start at its headwaters at Lake Itasca, where you can literally step over the mighty river at its source. Closer to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, hike or bike the North Mississippi River Regional Park along trails where prairie land is being restored and herons are breeding. The St. Anthony Falls, along with Lock and Dam No. 1, are worth a visit to understand the beginnings of the Mississippi as a source of hydraulic power and a storied commercial waterway. Get Directions

Other Mississippi River Destinations:

  • Maiden Rock Bluff Natural Area. Particularly important as a nesting site for Peregrine Falcons, the 400 foot high and nearly one mile long bluff is a popular area for biking, fishing, hiking and bird watching. Get Directions
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument. Over 200 American Indian mounds are located at this sacred burial and ceremonial site. Beyond its archaeological and cultural significance, the site also hosts a wide array of wildlife in its beautiful Upper Mississippi River Valley setting. Get Directions
  • Delta Region. Explore the site of the earliest settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley at Arkansas Post National Memorial, travel to the initial point of survey for the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, and visit Helena's Delta Cultural Center to learn more about the culture and landscape of the region. Get Directions
  • Great River Road State Park. A 75 foot high overlook tower in the park offers spectacular views of the Mississippi River, making this a go-to destination along its shores. Get Directions
  • Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. The oldest national wildlife refuge in Mississippi, ducks and geese often winter here. Wildlife in the refuge ranges from alligators to white-tailed deer and several observation areas allow for optimal viewing. Get Directions
  • Grand Isle State Park. A breakwater between the Gulf of Mexico and the inland channels connecting to the Mississippi River's bayou tributaries, Grand Isle is a haven for over 280 species of fish, as well as brown pelicans, crabs and more. Get Directions
  • Pass A Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Located at the mouth of the Mississippi River, this area is only accessible by boat. The landscape is comprised of river channels, bayous and marshes with abundant wildlife, and is particularly excellent for fishing and bird watching.Get Directions

Explore the Mississippi River:


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