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Visiting a Source of the Mississippi River

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Uploaded on Jun 1, 2010

Note that this is just "a source" rather than "the source." In this video, though, we are very close to Howard Creek (separate video) whose head starts the longest course of open water through Lake Itasca into the Gulf of Mexico. Click on SHOW MORE.

A sketch map showing the general area and linking to more info is here: http://www.jlindquist.com/overview.html

Nicollet Creek is the main inlet to Lake Itasca which is popularly acknowledged as the source of the Mississippi River in north central Minnesota. Were it not for a major "disconnect" shown in this video where the water flows underground, one would easily consider Nicollet Creek's ultimate source to be in the area of Whipple Lake, about two miles upstream from Lake Itasca.

As the scientist, explorer and cartographer J. Nicollet followed this stream to Lake Itasca in 1836, he considered it the ultimate source of the Mississippi River - calling it "the infant Mississippi" and "a cradled Hercules." A half century later, as a tribute to Nicollet by J. V. Brower (the first commissioner of Itasca State Park), Nicollet's stream was given his name as were three lakes along his route which were designated Nicollet's "Upper," "Middle" and "Lower" Lakes. It appears from his Journals that Nicollet actually considered Whipple Lake as his first lake (that is, HIS upper lake) with its outflow running most of the way to Lake Itasca as an open stream.

In this video, we view the "Upper Lake" (as Brower called it) which receives the stream from the Whipple Lake area - more specifically from the "Mississippi Springs." (Click on the link above.) The "Upper Lake" is basically a swampy pond with no surface outlet, as the water seeps underground and travels onward as springs beneath a ridge.

At about 2:45 when the music returns to its original theme (after a worrisome interlude), the springs emerge at a lower level. From then on, the water continues openly - without interruption - to the Gulf of Mexico via a reconstituted stream and then the "Middle Lake," Nicollet Creek, Lake Itasca, and the Mississippi River! Along the way, the Miss. receives innumerable tributaries including the Missouri and Ohio Rivers which are the longest and most voluminous, respectively.

Backing up a little: At 4:25, Caption 6 states that "our stream...flows into the main channel of Nicollet's Springs." Upon further examination of this site two years later (in April, 2012), it is difficult to tell which is the "main" channel. Furthermore, both channels originate from springs which are fed by the "Upper Lake," and it appears that the general area was always known by the geographers as "Nicollet Springs."

The "Middle Lake" is called Nicollet Lake at the park, and it is glimpsed at the very end of the video. It's the only feature on this video that can be seen from any established trail; everything else is well off the beaten path. The area is mined with holes masquerading as solid ground.

This is all pretty obscure historical and geographical stuff, but fascinating to a few folks nonetheless. These are things one does not learn about in school.

Thanks for watching! Handel's "Water Music" seems to fit.

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