Spectacular Autumn at Itasca State Park

Dawn at Headwaters

A few weeks ago I posted the finale of our trip to Itasca State Park and featured the “Hatch of the Baby Snapping Turtles”. In this edition, we’ll return to the park and highlight some of the natural beauty that continues to make this historic region one of the most visited areas in Minnesota. Formed at the leading edge of repeating glacial advances, this northern pine moraine is filled with “knobs and kettles” which represent mounds of glacial debris and depressions formed by stagnant ice masses that were buried or partially covered by more glacial debris. The result was a range of gravelly hills interspersed with hundreds of lakes of varying size. The 32,000 acres of Itasca Park alone contain more than 100 lakes.

Water Lilies and Clouds

It is at the outlet of one of these bodies, Lake Itasca, that the Mississippi River begins it’s journey of 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The name Itasca was created by explorer Henry Schoolcraft and a missionary companion in 1832 from the Latin words for “truth” and “head”, verITAS CAput which loosely interpreted means “true head”. The Anishinabe guide Ozawindib led Schoolcraft to the source which was confirmed in the late 1800’s. Then in 1891, amidst vigorous logging activities, historian Jacob Brower saw his efforts realized as the region was established as Minnesota’s first state park and the land and forest he so deeply cared for were protected from being logged off.

Sunset at Peace Pipe Vista

There is no dispute that most of our state parks are filled with beauty that can only be created by a power much greater than man. It’s a tremendous draw that, for a few months each summer, finds this region and the park’s facilities clogged with visitors and tourists. It’s at those times that I try to stay away. I fully appreciate that for many families, this is the only time of year they can get out and experience nature as a family. A few years back, our family was one of those that took advantage of such parks and seasons as well and we have some pretty great memories and photos to prove it. Now, however, we prefer to check out the parks when most other adults are at work and the kids are back in school. The crowds are gone, the scenery is terrific and it’s just darned relaxing.

Itasca Fog On Mississippi

That’s the background for our short visit to Itasca this year. The weather was a mixed bag as it was raining that Sunday afternoon when we arrived. But with rain you have clouds, drama, fresh looking foliage and, as the clouds part, interesting light effects. Thus it was to be that a cloudy first day gave way to clearing followed by another front coming in at sunset. The following morning was cool with a heavy blanket of fog as I made my way to the headwaters. The lakes and woodlands seemed to breathe as the mystical vapors wafted up then settled down as various currents of air and temperature stimulated the peaceful symphony. Each moment seemed to be magical with its own special formula for visual candy.

Water Lilies on Mary Lake

The fog at sunrise was most inspiring to me as images filtered in and out of sight in the predawn light. As the moments to sunrise shortened and the fog began to lift, it was just a joy to witness. The Mississippi, so mighty a few hundred miles downstream, is just a humble brook at this point and for the first 50 or so miles of its journey. So it was that I tried to capture different angles of the headwaters so as to feature the rocks, trees, foliage and water as the predawn darkness slowly surrendered to the sun.

Mississippi Headwaters

Well that’s it for this posting; a few photos and brief history of Itasca Park. I know there are others that could have more creatively captured the natural beauty during those couple of days at the Park. But photography, as with anything else, is a learning experience. Mental notes were made of how the fog and rising sun affected the outcome. Locations to be at and best times of the day are also now logged in. And next time, well hopefully, I’ll do a better job of bringing back some digital memories to share. Whatever the outcome may be, one thing I can count on; the awesome beauty of Itasca State Park and the Mississippi headwaters will still be there. Have a great night and sleep well.

Headwaters Foggy Sunrise