Started in 1938, the Mississippi River Road is known as one of the more beautiful scenic drives. It covers ten states, from the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana it winds up to the boundary waters of Minnesota ending in Itasca State Park. While the drive is amazing and full of beautiful scenic destinations, there has been a huge effort to make the route available to bikers as well. Covering 575 miles and traveling through 11 state parks it is easy to see the opportunities for a family adventure or to get your daily workout.
Driving and biking are not the only things that are available for the traveler to do on or around the Mississippi River Road. Being nestled up against the Mississippi River, there are plenty of opportunities for canoeing, nature walking, bird and animal sighting, as well as, many pull-off areas with several exercise machines to add to your calorie burn. Among the various activities to do along your ride or walk, there has been great effort in keeping the trail surrounded by nature for the beauty, but also to make riding your bike, rollerblading, or simply going for a walk much safer and scenic than alongside the highway.
Early in July, the cities of Brainerd, Aitkin, and Crosby were excited to host the next addition of the Mississippi River Bike Trail extending from Little Falls to Grand Rapids. There was a small ceremony held in downtown Brainerd at Kiwanis Park where they unveiled a Kiosk outlining the attractions and the route all the way from Little Falls to Grand Rapids. In 2000, the Mississippi River Trail was nominated as one of 16 long distance trails that reflect and define the many aspects of America’s history and culture. In 2011 they received their official grant, based on the 2004 conceptual route, from the National Park Service to outline and most importantly got the signage necessary to cater to the hundreds of local and traveling vacationers.
The community came out in strong support of the official opening of this section of the Mississippi River Trail including the mayor of both Brainerd and Crosby, Carol Zoff, Senior Landscape Architect for MNDOT, Karl Samp, Director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, Rod Osterloh, Chair of the Brainerd Riverfront Committee, as well as, the Headwaters to the Hills Riders who took part in biking the trail after the official cutting of the ribbon to name a few. They all expressed their excitement and pleasure to not only host this event but to represent the excitement of the community for such an exciting addition.
The trail opening is yet another step by the community to improve the social connection that the locals have with the area as well as give them more experiences and activities to add to their daily routine. The future is looking bright for the Brainerd Lakes Area with future plans to expand the bike trail as well as talk of a future performing arts center that will be available to those in the area as well as the local high school located close by. Summer is always far too fast for those that live in northern Minnesota but they hope that the excitement within the biking community not only gets them out as much as possible but also gives them the options to use the trail during the winter and being able to use the facilities year round.
The Mississippi River is over 2000 miles long and takes 90 days for water to go from the headwaters all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Populated with 360 species of fish, 326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians and 50 species of mammals there is opportunity to see all the wildlife the area has to offer. With the continued support of the communities surrounding the Mississippi River Trail there will be opportunities for everyone across the country to come and observe the beauty of the Mississippi River and the nostalgia associated with such an amazing natural landmark.