Source of the Mississippi River, Minnesota's Lake Itasca
The single most important spot for tourists to visit is the source of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. There is no greater thrill than walking across the stepping stones in Lake Itasca that take you from one side of the Mississippi to the other. There are spots where a long-legged person can step across the river.
Within the park’s boundaries are historical and archaeological sites including preserved and restored buildings and the graves of Native Americans and early European settlers. It’s a good place for picnics, hiking and outdoor recreation during all four seasons.
The park is home to 200 bird species, old growth trees, and many kinds of mammals. There is space for camping, rooms to rent, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Visitors enjoy fishing, biking, horseback riding, and boating.
Lake Bemidji State Park is another interesting place to visit. After the area had been logged in the early part of the twentieth century, there were a few areas of virgin timber left which were set aside as a park. Many local people have connections to the logging industry and enjoy talking about their grandfathers who worked in the lumber camps. Locals and visitors enjoy hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.
The bogwalk is a big attraction. Some of the rustic buildings were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression and have been restored. They can be rented, and there is firewood available to keep them heated.
The atmosphere can be quite cozy. There are regular events scheduled that provide information about the history, geology, and wildlife. Information from the MN Department of Natural Resources about the state parks can be found here http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca/index.html
and here http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_bemidji/index.html