A River Runs Through It

M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I, That’s How To Spell It

The Might Mississippi isn’t so mighty at its lowly headwaters in Minnesota’s Itasca State Park. Only 18 inches deep at the source, the Mississippi is over 200 feet deep when it reaches New Orleans, Louisiana. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an American explorer and ethnographer. and his Anishinaabee (Ojibwe) guide, Ozaawindib, “discovered” the source of the Mississippi in 1832.The Ojibwe called the lake Omashkoozo-zaaga’igan  (Elk Lake), but Schoolcraft combined parts of the Latin words for truth and head and named it Itasca. Today, the headwaters are part of Itasca State Park, established in 1891. It is the oldest state park in Minnesota and the second oldest in the United States, beaten only by Niagara Falls.Walking across the Mississippi headwaters has become a tradition for many Minnesotans and visitors alike. I visited the Park when I was in the area this summer; on my drive back to Virginia, I followed the Mississippi along a section of  the Great River Road National Scenic Byway in Wisconsin.

Headwaters, Mississippi River, Itasca State Park, Minnesota

Surprisingly, the Mississippi runs north from Lake Itasca for about 100 miles before turning south on its 2,340 mile (3,730 km) journey to the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf of Mexico. The river passes through or along the border of 10 states along the way. It takes 90 days for a drop of rain in Lake Itasca to reach the Gulf. An extensive series of tributaries, including the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, feed into the river. The Mississippi (with its tributaries) is the fourth longest river system in the world and the second largest drainage system in North America.

Lake Itasca, Itasca State Park, Minnesota

220 Miles Downriver – The Twin Cities

From the University of Minnesota Campus, Minneapolis, Hennepin County

From the cliffs of Fort Snelling, Minnesota

What an amazing change in the river in 220 miles. The word Mississippi comes from Messipi, the French rendering of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Algonquin) name for the river, Misi-ziibi (Great River). In 1680, Father Louis Hennepin, a French Recollect Friar missionary to New France, was captured by the Dakota and held captive for several months. After Hennepin and his party were released, he visited and named St. Anthony Falls, in what is now Minneapolis. It is the only natural waterfall on the Mississippi River. (Sad to say I have never visited the falls). On his return to France, he wrote wildly exaggerated books about his explorations along the Mississippi. He only spent 3 or 4 months in Minnesota but he was not forgotten. Minneapolis is located in Hennepin County and  Hennepin Avenue one of its main downtown arteries.

Along the Great River Road in Wisconsin

Tugs on the Mississippi River, near Alma, Wisconsin

Barge traffic, near Alma, Wisconsin.

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway, established in 1938, follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles through 10 states. I followed Wisconsin Highway 35 from Prescott to the La Crosse area. Passing through quaint towns, along bluffs overlooking the river, and along the shore, I glimpsed commercial traffic on the river. Transportation of goods such as grain, coal, timber is an economic mainstay along the river. A series of locks and dams make the river navigable by barge and tug as far north as Minneapolis-St. Paul. According to the National Park Service, eight million tons of Minnesota‘s corn, soybeans and wheat, nearly 7 % of U.S. grain exports, are shipped annually from Minnesota to New Orleans for export to destinations around the world.

Join Terri’s Sunday Stills: Water, Water, Everywhere

Animals in Nature, With a Twist

Variations on a Theme: Fiberglass Zoo

Fiberglass animal molds in mold yard, FAST (Fiberglass Animals, Shapes & Trademarks), Sparta, Wisconsin. The molds were used for roadside attractions, advertising, displays, playground and pool equipment, etc.

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CB&WC: Benches

Solitary: Flight 93 Memorial

Bench on the observation/visitor center level of the Flight 93 National Memorial in rural Pennsylvania. United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked on September 11, 2001 as part of coordinated terrorist attack on the United States. The heroic actions of the 40 passengers and crew prevented the plane from reaching its final destination, Washington, D.C. The plane crashed in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all on board. The observation level overlooks the Flight 93 flight path, crash site and debris field, the final resting place of the crew and passengers.

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On the Road Again: Home Again

Road Trip Complete

Home again after 3445 miles (5544 km), 19 days, 9 states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, West Virginia), 1 wedding, 5 sisters, 2 brothers, 12 nieces and nephews, a grand niece and nephew, 2 extra family from Alexander street, one extra sister from Crookston, a Kokesh gathering, gladiola, several scenic byways, one camping trip, one river headwaters, one trip down memory lane on the University of Minnesota campus, a great visit with friends in Iowa and Ohio, and so much more. Had a wonderful road trip.

End of Day

Some lighter moments

The scariest Paul Bunyan ever. Looks like a serial killer.

Paul Bunyan, Akeley’s Bunyan is the only one kneeling,, Minnesota

Karaoke with camping

Karaoke night at Zorbas on Little Sandy Lake, Minnesota

After The Wedding – Taking Home the Glads (My brother grows them)

After the Wedding




Backroads America: Roadside Attraction Graveyard

Where do all the molds for roadside attractions and other fiberglass art go? If it was manufactured by FAST (Fiberglass Animals, Shapes & Trademarks) look no further than their mold yard in Sparta, Wisconsin.

In business for over 30 years, FAST began producing roadside attractions. It now makes water slides, fountains, sculptures, and many of the fiberglass animals on parade in cities.

FAST allows guests to wander through the mold yard at their own risk. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The weather and nature have not been kind to the molds but that adds to their appeal.

Overstock item are displayed along the road. Priced are listed on FAST’s website. Santa goes for $11,193.

Products can be seen in Sparta.

Backroads America: Valatie, Columbia County, New York

The Hudson River Valley is home to many villages, hamlets, towns, and cities. Valatie is a village of about 1,900 that sits in the middle of the town of Kinderhook. It was settled by the Dutch in 1665 as part of New Netherlands. The original inhabitants of the area were Mohigan, an Algonqin Indian Tribe.

At the height of its prosperity, Valatie had 9 cotton mills and a number of grist mills. The mills were powered by two waterfalls on. Valatie means “little falls” in Dutch. This is the Beaver Mill Overlook; the mill no longer exists.

Valatie was an important regional center of commerce. It was home to the workers though it has a number of large houses. The John Morgan house dates to 1830.

The owners lived in Kinderhook, where large stately home can be found.

It has a lovely cemetery.

In 1946, it was the home of the first Santa Claus Club.

Agriculture is one of the economic drivers in the area. Bio fuel corn has replaced many grain crops. Fruit and vegetables are important and roadside markets are scattered throughout the area.

Locally grown strawberries are in season at the moment.

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