Itasca State Park

ITASCA STATE PARK

Rock strewn across lake at the headewaters

About the park

Map of Minnesota pinpointing Itasca State ParkEstablished in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota’s oldest state park and arguably the second oldest state park in the nation. Famous as the location of the Mississippi headwaters, but originally created to protect the magnificent, old-growth pine trees from logging. Jacob Brower was instrumental in the park’s establishment and went on to say, “No one will ever fully realize how necessarily strenuous were the exertions which finally resulted in establishing Itasca State Park, April 20 1891… For no measure was ever more unreasonably harassed and opposed.”

Today, we are indebted to Brower’s and others’ efforts to create this park, which is a landmark and source of state pride. One of the largest state parks, it offers incredible opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing and camping.

Our Work by the Numbers

1

LAND PROJECT
completed here

191

ACRES
of invaluable
land saved

1995

YEAR
last project
was completed

67,700

DOLLAR VALUE
of land at time
of acquisition

Park Map Showing Project Site

Our Project Stories

A former homestead added to the park

Interpretive sign
Interpretive sign in the park about the Gartner Family and adding their land to the park.
Itasca State Park by Penny Moundson

Project Years: 1993-1995

Project Acres: 190.6

In the early 1900s, Andrew and Maria Gartner moved from St. Paul to a plot of land straddling the current boundary of Itasca State Park. They were one of the few families to persist in the grueling work of creating a successful homestead where they raised their 11 children. Andrew and Maria remained on the homestead until their deaths in the early 1970s.

A number of years passed before Andrew and Maria’s descendants undertook the legal process of establishing ownership rights to the land. During this process the family intentionally set aside the 191 acres north of Highway 113 to become parkland and the remaining 500 acres were put up for public auction, which were purchased by two grandsons and one great-grandson in 1993. Yet, even as the 191 acres were intentionally set aside, it was nearly lost to the park as the State was not in a position to complete the acquisition at that time. Consequently, Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota stepped in to acquire the land and transferred it to the State two years later in 1995 to officially become part of the park.

Today, little indication of any settlement remains on the 191 acres within the park. The land has been reforested and serves as an access point with vehicle parking to hike in to a portion of the North County National Scenic Trail, which is a long-distance hiking trail crossing several states.