Lake, northwestern Minnesota, U.S. Occupying an area of 1.8 sq mi (4.7 sq km), it is located 1,475 ft (450 m) above sea level. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's theory that Lake Itasca is the source of the Mississippi River has been widely accepted. He is generally credited with originating the name Itasca, but Indian legend mentions I-tesk-ka, the daughter of Hiawatha, whose tears of anguish at being spirited away to the netherworld were the source of the Mississippi.
Learn more about Itasca, Lake with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The Mississippi River starts its 2,340 mi (3,770 km) journey to the Gulf of Mexico at the lake. Henry Schoolcraft identified Lake Itasca as the river's source in 1832. He had been part of a previous expedition in 1820 led by General Lewis Cass that had named nearby Cass Lake (which is downstream from Itasca) as the source of the river. The Ojibwe name for "Lake Itasca" was Omashkoozo-zaaga'igan (Elk Lake); this was changed by Schoolcraft to "Itasca" ,., coined from a combination of the Latin words veritas ("truth") and caput ("head"). It is one of several examples of pseudo-Indian place names created by Schoolcraft.
The channel of the Mississippi as it emerges from the lake was actually moved in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, as part of project to create a more pleasant experience for visitors. The project included the draining of the surrounding swamp, the digging of a new channel, and the installation of a man-made rock rapids. Wading across the rapids in bare feet – walking across the Mississippi River – is a popular recreational activity for summer tourists.
The western arm of the lake is fed by two small streams on its south end. Nicolett Creek, which is considered too small to be considered as the headwaters, starts in a nearby spring. Another small stream leads into Itasca from Elk Lake, which in turn is fed by two other streams. In 1887 Williard Glazier promoted a campaign to consider Elk Lake, which he called Glazier Lake, as the true source of the Mississippi. These streams, however, are generally considered too small to be categorized as the headwaters of the river.
The decision was made by Jacob V. Brower, a land surveyor and president of the Minnesota Historical Society, who after spending five months exploring the lakes ruled that the lakes and streams further south of Lake Itasca were not the true source of the Mississippi. Brower was to campaign aggressively to save the lake from logging. On April 21, 1891, the Minnesota Legislature officially made it a state park by a margin of one vote. Brower is now called the "Father of Lake Itasca" and the visitor center is named in his honor.
He's got the itch to swim; Martin Strel, who is making his way down the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to New Orleans, came through the Twin Cities on Friday. "I must swim," he says.(NEWS)
Jul 20, 2002; Byline: John Eligon; Staff Writer Never mind the 500 miles he's swum. Never mind the countless aches and pains he's had, the...
It happened on the Mississippi River: from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico, thirty events that shaped the history of the Mighty Mississippi.
Mar 01, 2010; By James A. Crutchfield. Paperback, $12.95. Globe Pequot Press, www.globepequot.com. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] History buffs will...