Mad In Pursuit Notebook

wind turbines north of Bismarck NDMoorhead MN to Superior WI

6.17.2013. Today we traded grass for trees as we headed into Minnesota. We didn't really have a plan except to see some scenery and arrive in the Duluth area for happy hour. But on the way, glancing at a map, I spotted Itaska State Park, then Lake Itaska -- oh! the source of the Mississippi River. I'd thought about seeing it a few years back when we took a drive along the Mississippi River, but it seemed too far. But here it was!

The big attraction was the exact location where Lake Itaska starts pouring itself into a small stream off its north shore... this little stream, no more than 15 feet across, becomes the mighty Mississippi, the Father of Waters, Old Man River. As you can see from the photo above, visitors have fun walking across the stepping stones that demarcate the headwaters from the lake.

It was especially nice for us because we had also been so close to the source of the Missouri River near Helena, Montana -- my two hometown rivers, tracked down to their origins.

I've grown to prefer the metaphor of rivers rather than trees to describe genealogy. If I am the Mississippi, then I am the sum of all the rivers and streams and creeks (aka ancesters) that flow into me. I benefit from all the nourishment of these waters. But, hmmm, that also means I am weakened by various upstream pollutants. That's life I guess.

Rivers are so alive, such great sources of energy. I doubt if any big rivers are left to be wild anymore. We dredge and dam and put them to work. There are 43 dams between Lake Itaska and St Louis.

One of the things I enjoy about our drives is observing the country's transportation infrastructure. I know, it sounds like something you learn in fifth grade: describe how goods get to market. And so we see the crops and lumber and coal and oil and wind at their source. As we drive along, then we see the grain elevators, trains, trucks, barges, and power lines... the energy hums...

Now we have reached the Great Lakes. Duluth, Minnesota, is at the western tip of Lake Superior. We're staying across the bay in Superior, Wisconsin. The whole area is heavy-duty industrial -- getting the goods to market (see photo below). We tried to drive around tonight to get a feel for the big ships but we wound up going in circles and getting lost. Not exactly tourist-friendly, at least not on this side. Maybe we'll see a little more as we head out of town tomorrow.

superior wisconsin