This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. We took a break from weekly stops due to the pandemic, but we will highlight outdoor activities that don't conflict with health and safety recommendations.

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River passing through the Twin Cities and including dozens of related parks and recreation areas.

“We are a partnership park,” said Sharon Stiteler, national park ranger. “The Park Service doesn’t own all the land in the corridor, so we partner with private landowners and other parks in our corridor for habitat restoration and programming.”

One of the attractions of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is the abundance of birdlife, like this eagle near St. Paul Park, that live along the river. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
One of the attractions of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is the abundance of birdlife, like this eagle near St. Paul Park, that live along the river. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

That unique combination of boundaries and jurisdictions means that visitors have multiple access points to the variety of activities available, as well as visitor centers and museums in several state and regional parks within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. .

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“There are a number of ways to access the river,” Stiteler said, “and our job as rangers is to make sure that you are using it whether it’s for biking, canoeing, fishing, birding, or whatever.”

One of the partnerships is with Fort Snelling State Park. Rangers sponsor a winter trails day and corporate sponsors such as REI bring in equipment that people can try.

Dozens of access points in the partner parks make the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area a unique unit in the National Park Service. This access point is in Hazen P. Mooers Park at Grey Island near Cottage Grove. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Dozens of access points in the partner parks make the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area a unique unit in the National Park Service. This access point is in Hazen P. Mooers Park at Grey Island near Cottage Grove. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

Several other parks join together to assist with the Paddle Share Program. “That’s like the Nice Ride bikes, but they are kayaks, and you can rent a kayak and take it out onto the river,” Stiteler explained.

Stiteler works with one partnership with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge called Tech Nature. “I show people all the different smartphone apps that they can use to identify birds,” Stiteler said. “There are apps that you can take a picture of a bird or a flower, and it will attempt to identify what it is. They are surprisingly accurate.”

If people want to get more involved than just visiting the park, people can call the park number and volunteer. “ If you have a skill, or a talent, or a desire, we would love to work with you,” she said.

“This is your river, and it is your resource,” Stiteler said. “You should use it in any way that you can that helps bring you joy and peace.”

If you go...

Name: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Address: Visitor Center is at 120 W Kellogg Blvd., St Paul, in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Phone: 651-293-0200

Website: www.nps.gov/miss/index.htm

Hours: Visitor Center hours are Sunday to Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at.9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours to visit the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area vary depending on which partner park is visited. Check with each park for details.

Admission: Visitor Center is free. Partner parks have different admission rates.