As we anticipate our first frost here in Minnesota tonight, it gets us thinking about fall. Through my window, I see corn that is drying up, soybeans that are turning from green to yellow to tan, and trees whose tints have begun to change ever so slightly. In the coming weeks, people in many places will begin their traditions of fall color viewing, and many of these scenic drives take place along a river route. This year, why not see the leaves from a different vantage point? Instead of driving alongside a river, look for fall colors from the Mississippi River itself! Here are some ideas.
Mississippi Headwaters in Itasca State Park, Minnesota
Start at the Source. At the source of the Mississippi River in Minnesota‘s Itasca State Park, you can actually wade across the Mississippi River as it begins its journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Trees in the park line the river, and you can cross back and forth as many times as you wish. There’s something exciting about walking across the Mighty Mississippi, no matter what your age. Itasca State Park is open year-round and the only cost for this experience is a $5/vehicle pass into the park. You may wish to stay longer and enjoy some of the many trails that run through this scenic park.
Drive across the river. Well, you won’t exactly be driving as you cross on the Cassville Ferry, but you’ll be making the journey in your car as it is shuttled from Cassville, Wisconsin, to Millville, Iowa, or vice versa. Catch the Great River Road from either side and visit such places as Stonefield Village just outside Cassville or get a birds-eye view of the river valley from Pikes Peak State Park. During the fall months, the ferry runs only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the cost is $15/car.
Go cruising. In the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, you can take a relaxing ride on the river and get a history lesson along the way on a Spirit of Dubuque cruise. This replica paddlewheeler runs up and down the river from the Ice Harbor area of Dubuque. Views of the city and surrounding areas are beautiful, and you may catch a glimpse of wildlife as well. After your river cruise, take some time to learn more about the Mississippi River at the excellent National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which is right next to the dock area. Several cruises run through October, and prices vary.
The Minnesota DNR says we’re in for one of the best leaf-peeping seasons in quite some time, so I hope you’ll have some time to take in the fall colors along the Mississippi River, or wherever you are this fall as the leaves turn.
Photo credit: the author.