If you plan to visit the Mississippi River, you might want to know how far up the Mississippi you can travel by boat.
The Mississippi River is one of the most iconic rivers in the world, with plenty of beautiful scenery in and around it. Though you can view much of the river by walking next to it on land, there’s nothing quite like being on the river water.
The farthest up the Mississippi you can travel by boat is to Lake Itasca in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since Lake Itasca is the source of the Mississippi River, the farthest up point on the river itself is the area where the lake meets the river.
The only boats that can safely be taken up this part of the river are small boats such as rowboats, kayaks, and canoes. These boats are often manually powered with oars and paddles.
There are kayaks and other similar boats with electric motors you might be able to use, but the boat should be small enough to navigate tight spaces and be carried when objects completely block your river path.
Is It A Good Idea To Travel By Boat Up The Mississippi?
It’s no mystery why anyone would want to go boating on the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is one of the most storied rivers in the United States, with countless areas to the boat and explore. As one of the longest rivers in the country, there is a great deal of variety when it comes to the shapes and sizes of different parts of the river.
The water in the Mississippi River generally flows southward, so it’ll be easier on your boat to head south on the river. People at the north end of the Mississippi River might be more inclined to explore the nearby areas of the river. There are features of the northern part of the Mississippi River that cannot be found in other areas of the river.
Boating at the lower end of the Mississippi might place you in more isolated areas with little to no access to fuel and other important resources. You should definitely research specific areas of the river you plan to boat to make sure you and your passengers are prepared for the conditions in those areas. Regardless of where you decide to boat on the Mississippi River, it is generally less favorable to boat going north. If you have a motorized boat, there will be more strain on your engine compared to going in the opposite direction. If you were rowing a kayak or canoe, it’ll be tougher for you to row upstream against the currents.
The currents on the Mississippi River can sometimes be very rough, so just moving a little bit up the river could be difficult sometimes. What I would recommend is starting towards the top of the river and boating down or exploring a specified area in a circular manner. The river current will be relatively still in some segments of the north end, so you can maybe linger around that area on your boat and on land. There are lots of areas where you can go fishing, biking, or walking around in beautiful natural settings.
If you want to boat in an area without much currents, you can go a little off of the Mississippi into Lake Itasca, which is at the northmost point of the river. You’ll be able to boat and explore in more wide and stable water while having the opportunity to boat into the Mississippi River.
Once you get into the north end of the Mississippi from Lake Itasca, you’ll be traveling pretty briskly down the river with many narrow points and objects like rocks and branches scattered throughout. Going up the Mississippi River from within that area might be very difficult due to the current and nature of objects in the way. Aside from natural objects in the river, you will have to contend with other boats coming down the river.
Dealing with other boats can be challenging regardless of the direction you are heading, but it can be particularly dangerous if you’re in a small boat. If you want to travel in a larger boat at the north end of the Mississippi, it can be difficult due to the closure of a major lock in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area.
The Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam was closed in 2015 to slow the progression of invasive carp, so if you are on a boat below that point and want to travel up, you won’t be able to do so on the river.
There are places you can boat above the lock, but you would have to tow your boat to the water and stay within a limited area since you wouldn’t be able to boat south of the lock.
How Do I Boat On The North End Of The Mississippi?
There are many fantastic places to boat on the upper section of the Mississippi River, but if you want to stick to the northernmost areas, you can only use a small vessel like a kayak or canoe. If you want to explore the source of the Mississippi River, you can drive up to Lake Itasca and launch your small boat around there.
Though you can boat with powered boats like bowriders, cruisers, and skiffs on the lake, you won’t be able to take them on the river since much of the navigable areas around that point are too small and shallow.
Being at the farthest point up the Mississippi River can be a profound experience considering the massive size and significance of the river. To know I’m at the very start of something so physically and historically massive makes me put things into perspective. There is also a sense of astonishment that helps to boost my overall experience boating through the narrow pathways that make up the top of the Mississippi River. Though there are often easy areas to row your boat along the river, you should be mindful of tricky areas where rocks, wood, and random obstructions may lurk. You should be prepared to exert lots of energy since your path along the river will probably not be well-defined.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson