Saturday, August 12, 2017

Itasca State Park

Note: this is my first post-Rocky trip report. We decided to keep the blog going with the same name for continuity. Although Rocky no longer travels with us, he is along in spirit.

Our first trip of the year was a quick visit to Itasca State Park. Itasca is the largest and oldest state park in Minnesota. Established in 1891, it is known as the source of the Mississippi River and protects old growth white pine saved from logging when the park was created. The park contains 32,000 acres of land and a diverse landscape of forests, bogs, hills and over 100 lakes.

We accompanied my brother Ric and his wife Jeanne, who were visiting from their home in Oregon. Although he grew up in Minnesota, Ric had never been to Itasca and it was on his bucket list. They decided to see the park on their way back to Oregon and we decided to go along. We made reservations to camp on Monday night- they in their home-crafted teardrop trailer and us in our truck camper.

We met up at the park in mid-afternoon. First order of business was a boat ride on Lake Itasca with Coburn's Boat Tours. The tour was relaxing and informative. The boat has an interesting history you can read here:

After the tour, we explored the park a bit and then set up camp. A short hike took us to the Old Timer's Cabin- built by the CCC in 1934 from enormous windfall logs.

We decided to splurge by having dinner at the historic Douglas Lodge. It was built in 1904 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in the rustic style, it has a nice northwoods ambiance. It is the oldest surviving structure in the state park system. You can read more about it and other Itasca buildings here:

After dinner, we enjoyed a nice sunset over the lake and retired to bed. Ric and Jeanne left early the following morning on the next leg of their trek back to Oregon. Kathy and I decided to explore the park a bit more before heading home. We took a couple of short forest hikes to see big old trees and some nice landscape views.

Heading home, we camped along the Crow Wing River in Huntersville State Forest in a state forest campground that we had all to ourselves- pretty nice. All in all, it was a good first trip for the year.

Click on the photos for a larger version.

Location map for Itasca State Park

Headwaters of the great Mississippi River.
Signpost at the headwaters
Rapid logging of the old trees provided the impetus for creating Itasca State Park in 1891.

CCC building the "old timer's cabin" in 1934.

Built entirely from old growth windfall, only 4 logs were needed to make a wall.

As it stands today.

Look at the size of those logs!

The park contains the oldest white pine in the state.
It is a big tree!

Here is a video to give a sense of scale for the big tree:

A view on one of our hikes

Two young campers enjoy the sunset.

Our camp at Huntersville State Forest.


  1. Thanks Al.
    Is Rocky no longer with you or just not camping?
    Looks like a nice trip.

    1. Frank, Rocky's life ended in January. I wrote about him in the previous blog post. We miss him but have many good memories.

  2. We so enjoy and look forward to your posts about Midwest travels. Thank you!

  3. Replies
    1. Have a great time and thanks for checking out the blog. Nice woodworking you do!