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Summer is upon us and many families take this opportunity, when their children are not in school, to take family vacations.  any families spend time camping or at their summer cabins on the lake, where they can go swimming, and enjoying trips around the lake in their boats. Others travel to visit relatives who are not in the immediate area, while others plan vacations to see many of the great historic sites that this great country of ours provides.

Our family recently traveled to Park Rapids to attend the graduation of one of our relatives, and while we were in the area we decided to take advantage of where we were and visited Itasca Park, the site of the source of the Mississippi River.

The Ojibwe Indians referred to the Mississippi River as Gichiziibi  - "great river." Romanticists translated this to mean "Father of Waters."

In the late 19th century, the thought of creating a park to preserve a natural wilderness at the Mississippi's headwaters was not a popular idea. Such land seemed plentiful at the time and many people judged land solely for its material wealth.

Following the establishment of the Niagara Falls State Park in New York State, several prominent Minnesotans voiced the need for a similar park surrounding the Mississippi's source. A bill that had been prepared in part by Jacob V. Brower was put before the Minnesota legislature. It later passed by a margin of one vote, and as a result Itasca State Park was established and continues to exist today.

People from all corners of the world continue to visit Itasca State Park and marvel at the serene birthplace of the mighty Mississippi. I am sure many of the park visitors pose next to the large pine log, that has been carved with yellow letters and marks the site of the humble beginning of this great river that travels to the Gulf of Mexico.

Our family, especially the two older grandchildren, were excited to think that they could cross the river by walking on rocks, one after another, until they reached the other side. During one of Morgan’s trips across the great Mississippi River she slipped on one of the rocks and got a bit wet, but her dad was right there to catch her.  During our visit the water was still a bit on the cool side but I am sure that during the hot summer days, many of the children, and others hiking in the area, enjoy walking along the river’s edge. It was also interesting seeing all the great pine trees that have towered for hundreds of years in the park.

Upon our return home I shared the story of our trip with my mother and she quickly said, "I walked across the headwaters too, probably 70 some years ago when I was honored to attended a camp there," and I am sure that many of you have visited it too. Needless to say, I am sure our family will long remember our visit and can proudly say they have walked across the Mississippi River.

The Itasca Park, established in 1891, is Minnesota's oldest state park. The park, which is also one of the largest with 32,000 acres, is 1,475 feet above the ocean.

The mighty Mississippi begins its flow from the Itasca Park on its winding way 2,552 miles. A scientific debate continues as to what river should be known as the great river that drains half a continent, but tradition tells us it is the Mississippi River that begins right here in Minnesota.

The term Mississippi, originates from the Algonquin word Misiziibi - "a river spread over a large area."

Many people have studied the northern bend of this great river over the years, comparing it with its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.

During our visit we learned the average temperature at the Mississippi headwaters is 40 - 50 F.  while at the Gulf of Mexico it is 70 - 80 F.

The average annual precipitation at the Mississippi headwaters is 20 to 40 inches a year while at the Gulf of Mexico they receive 60 to 70 inches of precipitation.

The average flow of this great river at the headwaters is 30 - 60 gallons per second, while at the Gulf of Mexico it is 4.5 - 5.5 million gallons per second.

The average width of the mighty Mississippi headwaters is 18 inches while the average width at the Gulf of Mexico is 1,000 feet - quite a difference.

The same goes for the average depth. Once again the average depth at the Mississippi headwaters is 18 inches while the depth at the Gulf of Mexico is 100-200 feet.

During our visit we learned that Mary Gibbs Logan, who lived from 1879 to 1983, was the first woman park manager in North America.  Mary served as Superintendent of the Itasca State Park in 1903.  Though Mary's tenure at Itasca was brief, her memory lives on, inspiring others through her courage and dedication in preserving Itasca's pines and waters.

The Mississippi Headwaters Center was dedicated on September 10, 2005. One doesn't have to travel far when there is so many interesting things to visit and learn about right here in Minnesota.

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Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, June 11th: Angie & Thad Aaseth, Rick & Becky Johnson, Andy Lerberg, Zoie Marie Jensen, Diana Ritz, Matthew Horan, John Xavier, Mary Simon, and Karen Carlsen

• Friday, June 12th: Nancy Ver Hey, Hanna Gail Crabtree, John Wallace, Charlotte Hill, Grant Pavek, Keith & Teresa McDonald, Ryan & Amanda (Reese) Beavens and Ron & Julie Peterson

• Saturday, June 13th: Steve & Rhonda Christensen, Fran & Fred Kenady, Marilyn & Gary Ulland, Keith & Kristin Hamberg, Kaden Jon Homuth, Cory Donald Haberman, Brent Reese, Ray Otteson, Tira Vangen, Corey Haberman, Tristan Richards, and Gary Jepson

• Sunday, June 14th: Camille Marjean Dunlap, Summer Stieglbauer, Herb Moon, Kelly Wacek, David Broskoff, James Deml, Obert Osmundson Jr., Richard Peterson, Mitchell Kubat and Michael & Stacy Keith  

• Monday, June 15th: Dale & Nadine Strenge, Dale & Marlene Peterson, DeWayne Hagen, James Bremer, Dale Anderson, Jennifer Robertson, Kathy Jensen, Kim Nelson, Logan Vietze and Ovanna Haried

• Tuesday, June 16th: Andren Richard Aaseth, Aven Leo Aaseth, Emily Otto, Bethany Otto Mikesell, Doug Smith, Lorraine Wallace, Vonda Humburg, Kenny Evenson, Kari Ingvaldson, Chase  Boehme, Heather (Crabtree) & Keith Krenke, Rochelle (Butler) & Brent Chapman, Tracy & Paul Marcus, Richard & Becky Axmann, Kim (Anderson) & Rich Schneider and Dale & Marlene Peterson

• Wednesday, June 17th: Kimberly & Mike Luhring, Jim & Jeanne Worrell, Tiffany (Moon) & Josh Krueger, Natalie Jean Aaseth, Jim Hohansee, Eric Tobiason, Joshua Churchill, Aaron Casterton, Matthew Xavier, Tim Butler, Chase Hanson, and Anna Kay Hardyman.

Wishing you a very special day blooming with warm and happy memories!

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