Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together … to the Mississippi River!
Who hasn’t heard of the Mississippi River? If you’ve ever read Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer stories, you know it well. In grade school, you probably learned how to spell it by saying “M-i-crooked letter-crooked letter-i-crooked letter-crooked letter-i-hump back-hump back-i”. It passes through ten states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, so if you have visited any of these states, you likely saw it in person. The Mighty Mississippi River is the second longest river in North America and the fourth longest river in the world. It is, indeed, mighty and famous, from stories of the old south and steam boats, and from being a major link for commerce to ship goods across the country.
I’ve seen the Mississippi River up close several times. I was so excited to get to visit the Head Waters on the cross country trip I took with my brother and sister-in-law in their motorhome in 2016. The Mississippi River begins at Lake Itasca, Minn. (The word Itasca means True Head.) The location of the Mississippi Head Waters is the only place anywhere along the Mississippi River where you can actually walk across it – it is the narrowest, shallowest, and slowest flow, allowing easy wading and playing in the waters.
The location of the Head Waters is a beautiful area. There is a wonderful Visitor’s Center with lots of amazing information, and Native American artifacts and several walking trails. There is a spot where they installed steps so you can walk down to the absolute narrowest point of the river and walk across to another set of steps on the other side. Lake Itasca is stunning, and the spot where it flows to feed the start of the Mississippi is a wonderful place to get in and wade and play in the water. And … YES … of course I got in at both the narrowest spot and the actual Head Waters and did walk across the Mississippi. It was so much fun. There were many times on that trip that I declared, “This is the BEST thing, yet!” but this is one that sticks out as one of the coolest things we did. It is an experience I’ll never forget.
We drove along and crossed the Mississippi many times on that trip as we traveled through several states – including when we got to see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. But the next major experience we had on the Mississippi was in New Orleans, La. We were visiting family there – my nephew and his family lived in Houma, La. at the time – and we all took a river boat cruise out of the French Quarter in New Orleans. We took the Natchez – one of only two true steam boats still active on the Mississippi River today. The Natchez cruised from the heart of the French Quarter along the crescent of the Mississippi River, which is the deepest point of the river at 200 feet deep – giving us the honor of being able to say we were at the start and end, as well as the shallowest and the deepest points of the Mighty Mississippi, all in one trip! It was so beautiful and gave us a view of New Orleans that can’t be seen from the streets. On this cruise, we saw everything from sandy beaches with people out for a stroll or fishing, to major industry like a Domino sugar refinery and oil refineries, to shipping operations, to the beautiful New Orleans skyline … what a diverse section of the river – just amazing! I thoroughly enjoyed checking this major bucket list item off my list – Take a River Boat Cruise on the Mississippi!
On my trip to Iowa in 2017, I had another memorable experience with the Mississippi River. I stayed in Dubuque and discovered a wonderful River Walk park along the Mississippi. I spent a lot of time strolling along the river looking at the amazing sculptures by local artists and enjoying the beautiful weather. That River Walk happens to have views of the first railroad bridge built across the Mississippi in 1867-68. Andrew Carnegie supplied the iron for the $800,000 railroad bridge spanning 1,535 feet, which provided an alternative to ferry crossings across the river. The bridge is still in use today – I watched a train cross it! There are also the remains of an old shot tower constructed in 1856 to produce lead shot ammunition. Molten lead was poured into the top of the tower and passed through a series of sieves to form the proper shot size. The shots then fell into a tank of cold water at the bottom of the tower. It was so cool to see and learn about these historic points of interest along the Mississippi River.
If you’d like to see more photos and information about the Mississippi River, visit my blog posts about the two trips mentioned in this article: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2016/10/11/mea-2-the-mighty-mississippi-start-to-finish/ and https://thoughtsbykim.com/2017/10/20/2017-dubuque-iowa/