Leaving Cook County, we backtrack down Highway 61 to Duluth, then go northwest on Highway 2 to Itasca County (pop. 45,058). Its county seat, Grand Rapids, is the birthplace of Judy Garland.
In addition to a Judy Garland museum (in her family’s home), Grand Rapids (pop. 10,869) has the impressive Old Central School, built in 1895 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.
In the 19th century, Grand Rapids was the uppermost limit of steamboat travel on the Mississippi River. Now, the rapids are hidden under high waters behind a dam.
Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi, is not in Itasca County; it’s in Clearwater County, about 100 miles west of Grand Rapids.
Itasca County has about 1,400 lakes and has been a longtime center of Minnesota’s timber industry. Much of the county is within the Chippewa National Forest and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.
The county’s largest lake is Lake Winnibigoshish, which was created by the construction of a dam on the Missisissippi River in 1884.
Northwest of Grand Rapids is Deer River (pop. 930), which hosts “The World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival” every year.
NEXT: BELTRAMI COUNTY