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Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park is located in the Heartland region of Minnesota near Bemidji and Park Rapids.

Itasca State Park the headwaters of the Mississippi

Driving Directions: Drive 23 miles north of Park Rapids on U.S. Highway 71 to get to the south entrance to the park. Or, drive 30 miles south from Bemidji on U.S. Highway 71, then 1/10 of a mile north on Highway 200 to reach the east entrance to the park. The north entrance to the park is 21 miles south of Bagley on State Highway 92/State Highway 200.

Park Highlights:

  • Itasca State Park is the oldest of Minnesota's state parks. This 32,000-acre state park was established to protect the source of the Mississippi River, the headwaters, that flow from Lake Itasca on a winding journey for 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The area is one of the most famous cultural and natural landmarks in the United States.
  • The Itasca area's old-growth pine forests are almost as famous as the Mississippi River Headwaters. The park was also created to preserve these remnant stands of virgin red pine from loggers. The Norway Pine (Red Pine) is the Minnesota State Tree. Preacher's Grove is one of many places to view these stunning and stately trees.

Just 2.99 - A complete guide to Minnesota state parks is our own Kindle book Minnesota State Parks: From Afton to Zippel Bay

Itasca's Natural Attractions: The park has 100 lakes within its borders including Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi River. The 2,000-acre Wilderness Sanctuary is one of Minnesota's seven National Natural Landmarks.

Things to Do in Itasca State Park: Wade across the Mississippi River or walk across on the boulders. Take the Wilderness Drive and examine an archeological site where ancient stone-tipped tools and other evidence of early Native Americans have been discovered.

Hike more than 33 miles of trails; canoe and kayak the lakes. Facilities at the park include the Headwaters History Center, Douglas Lodge and Museum, a gift shop, and bike and boat rental outlets. Activities include weekly naturalist programs during the summer months, guided boat tours on Lake Itasca, the annual Ozawindib Walk (5K or 10K), the Headwaters 100 Bike Ride/Race, and a variety of daily events.

Snowmobiling the trails is winter is a popular activity.

Camping in Itasca State Park

Camping in Itasca State Park: This is the most popular Minnesota state park, and camping reservations need to be made well in advance. We suggest at least six months. The campground has 223 campsites; 163 have electrical hookups. There are also 11 backpack sites, 11 cart-in sites, and 1 group camp that will accommodate up to 50 people. Picnic tables, fire rings, showers, flush and vault toilets, and a dump station are provided. Other lodging in the park includes Douglas Lodge, Itasca Suites, Mississippi Headwaters Hostel, and other cabins.

More Attractions in This Region: Visit Bemidji, located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, and famed for its giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox. Enjoy Paul Bunyan Animal Land, Paul Bunyan Amusement Park, and the Headwaters Science Center. Bemidji is also an arts-friendly town with several excellent museums and galleries. Lake Bemidji State Park is right on the edge of town. Visit Park Rapids and enjoy a treat at the MinneSoda Fountain. Take a side trip to see the logging museum in Cass Lake

Great River Road Trip - This iconic road trip can take you from Itasca State Park to the Iowa border or the 3,000 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Road Trip Travel Guide Road Trip USA Great River Road

Connie Cox has spent 20 years at Itasca State Park; 18 of those years as the park's lead naturalist. She states: "Naturalists are the connection for people to the outdoors. We're the friendly face and the friendly voice that reintroduce people to nature. Itasca is internationally recognized - there are people who come here who say they seeking out the most beautiful places in the world, and the source of the Mississippi River is on their bucket list." Quoted from Minnesota Monthly Magazine, July 2015

Itasca State Park Family History

Itasca State Park attractions

Our family has personal connections to this favorite of our state parks. In the early 1930's my husband's father bought 80 acres of woodland that borders the park. He built a small hunting shack there and sons, cousins and "shirt-tail relatives" gathered every year to hunt and bond.

In recent years, my husband built a huge log cabin on the land where the family still hunts and, as well, gathers for reunions, weekend retreats and so much more. It's wonderful to be able to spend so much time in this woodland paradise with the park right next door.

There is a memorial in the park to another part of my family history. My father pastored churches in several small towns in northern Minnesota. One of those churches, the Osage Baptist Church, was scheduled to be demolished. Townspeople lobbied to save it as a historical building and it was eventually moved to Itasca State Park where it now can be visited in the Pioneer Farmers Exhibit.

Other State Parks in This Region of Minnesota: Lake Bemidji State Park > Scenic State Park > McCarthy Beach State Park > Schoolcraft State Park > Hill Annex Mine State Park

Itasca Camping Guides and Gear


36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN 56470
Phone: 218-699-7251
Fax: 218-699-7210

Related Pages:

Minnesota Camping

Minnesota State Parks Maps, Reservations and Reviews

Campgrounds in Minnesota

Minnesota Campgrounds

Minnesota RV Campgrounds

Minnesota Campground Directory

Camping List

Back to Minnesota State Parks

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