The Mighty Mississippi – wide, treacherous, muddy, deep, calming, churning, and so much more. That is how we saw the river almost every day of our lives in South Louisiana. Growing up by the Mighty Miss, it was easy to take the river for granted. Riding the ferry across the river was a mode of transportation and necessary, then crossing the bridge was common place. We never gave much thought to where the river began or even how it meandered down to the gulf.
This summer our travels brought us from Louisiana through Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and into Minnesota. Once we realized how close we were to the Headwaters of the Mississippi, we had to visit. The Mississippi we knew was a work river with traffic plowing up and down carrying various products. It was much too treacherous and deadly for recreation. But the humble beginning of the river is a small stream serenely heading toward the gulf.
For Laurie, it was not enough to just look at the headwaters. She had to get right in and truly walk across the Mississippi. For John, walking the rocks across was sufficient. Either way, being at the Headwaters was an experience. Understanding what the river becomes as it moves downstream made experiencing the beginning a moving experience.
Its journey takes it 2,552 miles to the gulf. The northern part of its route is both a work and recreation river. As it heads south from Memphis, the Mississippi becomes mainly a working river – that is the river we knew. Yet, at the beginning the river is truly the “Lazy Mississippi”.