FOLLOWING THE MISSISSIPPI: Recreational River (Central Minnesota & Western Wisconsin)


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Little Falls

The shores of the Mississippi River straightened out south of Brainerd, and as I approached a string of pleasant small towns hugging its banks I realized I wasn’t going to reach Iowa before dark—not even close. As the sun dipped towards the western horizon I felt the stress of my own expectations; tomorrow would mark a full week in Minnesota, the first of ten states bordering the river. I’d built some flexibility into my trip but not enough to spend two months meandering back to New Orleans!

Bucolic Riverfront Park In Little Falls

Bucolic Riverfront Park In Little Falls

Despite my stress, I wanted to see as much as humanly possible so around 4 o’clock pulled into the small waterfront park at Little Falls—the next significant small town after Brainerd—to stretch my legs and snap a few pictures of the dam built upon its namesake. It seems ever town in Minnesota maintains such a pastoral park curled up against the river, and in the glistening later afternoon sunlight teens idly lounged about on summer break while cubicle bound professionals paused on their way home for a moment in the sun. Unfortunately, I didn’t have long to linger, wanting to get as close to the border as possible before nightfall.

2014-07-02 16.48.31I only made it an hour and two towns closer, however, (skipping industrial St. Cloud) before stopping again. Mike and Kelly Chase, friends from my Krewe of Rocckus adventure that kicked off this blog, had invited me to [Read more…]

FOLLOWING THE MISSISSIPPI: A Winding Wilderness Waterway


2014-07-01 12.35.04The town of Bemidji lies about 20 miles northeast of the Mississippi’s source and boasts dual claims to fame: first town on the Mississippi River and birthplace of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (and I’m not sure they realize the latter aren’t actual historical figures!) During its initial wilderness leg the modest Mississippi balloons into three of Minnesota’s largest lakes in quick succession like a python that swallowed the Three Little Pigs. Bemidji, a surprisingly robust college hockey town (home of The U of M-Bemidji), hugs the first of these lakes that dominate the Mississippi’s initial northern arc and is the only one developed beyond small fishing camp and boat resorts.

2014-07-01 17.39.39Upon entering town, it’s near-mandatory to stop by the welcome center and allow the giant statues of Paul & Babe to photo bomb you by the lake. Just around the corner, though, is a nearly completed lakefront arena of grand scale and design that promises to draw legends and giants of a different ilk. Whereas the lakefront is the main draw, there’s a string of alluring coffee shops and cafes mixed amongst the souvenir shops running perpendicular from the waterfront like a spoke. Venture a little further and you run into a cheerily cluttered antique mall perfect for visiting packrats and a small operational wool mill that sells the socks and gloves it produces next door along with an assortment of heavy wool clothing from other manufacturers to help you through the frigid northern winters.

The River Flowing Into Lake Bemidji

The River Flowing Into Lake Bemidji

The primary reason visitors travel this far north, though, is for [Read more…]