The Great River Road

Old Man River, Father of Waters, “body of a nation,” Big Muddy—by any name the mighty Mississippi cuts a mythic figure across the American landscape.

Crow Wing State Park

South of Brainerd, the GRR speeds along Hwy-371, which yearns to be an Interstate for the 30-odd straight miles it takes to reach Little Falls. Exceedingly flat and awash in a sea of corn, the region gives no hint of the Mississippi River except at Crow Wing State Park (218/825-3075, $5). Native Americans, missionaries, fur trappers, and lumberjacks made Crow Wing a thriving town until the 1870s, when the forced removal of the Indians and the shift of trade to the rail crossing at Brainerd turned Crow Wing into a ghost town. These days only cellar depressions, a cemetery, and a single surviving home remain around the old townsite, while trails, a picnic area, and campsites spread out beside the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers.

 

Crow Wing State Park (3124 State Park Rd.)