Starting as a trickle of water at its source in Lake Itasca, north of Park Rapids, Minnesota, the Mississippi River gradually builds steam as it drains more than 41 percent of the continental United States and portions of two Canadian provinces before traveling the 2,318 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Near its source lies a a series of reservoirs that were built more than 100 years ago as a system to reduce flood risks and provide water supply, as needed, to downstream communities. Subsequent authorizations include environmental enhancement and recreation.
The six Corps of Engineers' Mississippi River Headwaters reservoirs include Leech Lake, near Federal Dam, Minnesota; Lake Winnibigoshish, near Deer River, Minnesota; Big Sandy Lake, near McGregor, Minnesota; Cross Lake, near Crosslake, Minnesota; Gull Lake, near Brainerd, Minnesota; and Pokegama Lake, near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. All of them are managed as a system to reduce flood risks to the region.