"If you have trouble tracing the Mississippi River to its source in northern Minnesota, you are not alone. The “Father of Waters” winds and wends its way through bogs, deep forests, and lakes—and even flows north in some sections. No wonder early explorers bent on discovering the river’s source were baffled. Its myriad tiny tributaries create a veined web through nearly impenetrable bogs, and lie in close proximity to a major watershed which drains north to Hudson Bay.
Several lakes east and southeast of Bemidji were noted on the earliest maps of the region because of their sheer size, including Winnibigoshish, Cass, Bowstring, and Leech. These large bodies of water were important to early travel and settlement. Today they lie within the Chippewa National Forest, an area that includes some 700 lakes and more than 900 miles of streams and rivers, including the fledgling Mississippi. Key birds: Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Redhead, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Black Tern, Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo. Don’t miss: Mississippi River Outlet, Three Island County Park. This eTrail provides information on birding strategies for this location, birds you might see, directions to each birding spot, and helpful maps."