Travel / USA

A Walk Across the Mississippi River … No Bridge Required

A lifetime of travel and hours spent reading the exploits of courageous explorers have instilled in me an appreciation for geographic milestones – like walking across the Mississippi River, without a bridge.

As every traveler knows, a visit to Kenya and a Serengeti safari are all about “The Big Five” in their natural habitat. But for me, the trip wasn’t complete until I had straddled the equator. And years ago when we moved to London, once the boxes were unpacked, I simply had to visit Greenwich, a map-lovers Mecca and home of the Prime Meridian, where I could plant a foot in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

J Standing on Prime Meridian

I’ve traveled around the world twice, lived at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile, been on most of the continents … and the continental divide.

And over these years of wandering, I’ve developed a weakness for any sign that says, “tallest, biggest, most ___________ (fill in the blank). Sometimes I feel like John Travolta’s character in the movie Michael, when a cross-country trip was planned to pass by gems of Roadside Americana like the world’s biggest ball of twine.

Given my predilections, it came as no surprise to Terri when I suggested a detour to the source of the Mississippi River on Lake Itasca, in the boonies of north central Minnesota. Because reading that I could walk across the “Father of Rivers” sealed the deal.


For many travelers, the river is nothing more than a big, brown strip of water snaking beneath the interstate. But it only takes a bit of research to discover a long list of superlatives: it’s 2500 miles long; the 3rd largest drainage basin in the world; and 2 miles wide at its widest navigable point.

Walk Across Mississippi FI

It was America’s first interstate highway, had cut-throat pirates, and flowed backwards during the pioneer-startling New Madrid earthquake.

Sunset on the Mississippi

Recently I stood at the opposite end of the river gazing across “The Mighty Mississippi” from the levee at Jackson Square in New Orleans. It was an impressive and tranquil scene,  and I thought “I walked across this river when it was a trickle.” Amazing!

Have a geographic milestone? We’d love to hear about it.

Happy Trails,

18 thoughts on “A Walk Across the Mississippi River … No Bridge Required

    • Tracey, as I said, I’m a sucker for this stuff. And Terri, bless her heart, has gotten used to it by now. But it really was cool to see the Mississippi River as a small stream meandering through the countryside. ~James

    • Alison, it certainly does count. Geographic milestones are self-determined, but after all, there’s only one equator. And you get points wherever you encounter it … at least by my estimation. 🙂 ~James

  1. I, too, love these sorts of things. I have stood on one of the four corners of the earth, 45N-90W, walked (actually stepped is a better word) across the Connecticut River near the Canadian border, straddle the Continental Divide and stood on the 4 corners in the US where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. I was bummed while we were in Alaska I didn’t get to go above the Arctic Circle. Maybe next time.

    • Great examples Laura. I read your post about the four corners of the earth and was impresssed. You not only have to wander off the beaten path to find these corners, but you have to be a bit of a map geek to appreciate them. I’m envious. Bummer about the Arctic Circle. That would have been a nice landmark to see. But we didn’t make it to the Four Corners marker, so I understand … next time maybe. ~ James

  2. I am a sucker for superlatives too, James. It is incredible that you can actually walk across the Mississippi. I only know the great river from my days living in Louisiana where its flow is powerful and its width is more than a mile. There are so many quirky but interesting geographic locations that are sometimes obscure but beg to be explored. For example, today while walking across the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, we saw the world’s largest bascule bridge section.

    • Joe, I had to look up “bascule,” and somehow I missed this in Rotterdam. Umm. How did you like Rotterdam? Wasn’t it a nice change of pace? I absolutely loved the train station and the cube houses turned on-point. There’s going to be a post there eventually. ~James

      • I would love it if you decide to do a Rotterdam post, James. After our day trip today, I think it is a destination more people should consider visiting. It is only a 20 minute train trip for us to the modern and monumental Centraal Station. We also visited the ostentatious Markthal and unconventional cube houses. The architecture throughout the city is so wide-ranging and spellbinding. Today, the riverboat traffic was very active, and the bridges were beautiful and so much fun to walk across. After a full day, we feel like we have only begun to see the Netherland’s exceptional second city.

    • Thanks for the link to your post, which is an excellent addition to this one. I can see that we’re kindred spirits. For me, it’s always fun to check off another geographic milestone, but I find it’s also a motivator to find more about the backstory. You never know where a bit of research is going to lead, and more in-depth knowledge makes the travel so much more rewarding. ~James

    • Sue, an excellent endeavor no question, and truly in the spirit of unique geographic milestones. I can see the selfies with you and Dave smiling away – and then the blogs posts. When Terri and I moved to London we bought a small paperback book “The Best 500 Pubs of London,” and one of our weekend projects was to try a new pub each week. Not only was it fun to check off a new pub, but it inspired us to visit parts of town that we might never have seen. Your chaise lounge goal may do the same thing. I’m looking forward to hearing about your progress. With a little planning it can involve beer as well. 🙂 ~James

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