• Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

    Mississippi

    National River & Recreation Area Minnesota

The Big River Journey

Students waving to a paddleboat running upriver.

Welcome aboard! Each school year over 4,000 fourth through sixth grade students join Mississippi National River and Recreation Rangers and partner staff aboard a Mississippi River paddleboat to explore and learn about the Mississippi River.

While on their Big River Journey, students use microscopes to peer into the tiny world of aquatic invertebrates; study river geology using samples of sandstone, limestone and shale; check out river birds using binoculars; investigate the sources of river litter; and visit a riverboat captain in the pilothouse of the boat. Each of these hands-on stations allows students to connect with the river through science and real-world observations.

Since its beginning in 1996, the award winning Big River Journey program has connected over 40,000 students to the science and heritage of the Mississippi River and its watershed. Big River Journey includes 12 partner organizations which lead lessons during the trip, provide teacher training at workshops, or contribute other resources.

In 2001 Big River Journey received the National Park Foundation's educational partnership award. In 2007 Big River Journey won the Minnesota Environmental Initiative top award for environmental partnership.

Students come to Big River Journey from many different backgrounds and with many different interests. All of the partners of Big River Journey represent the significance of the Mississippi River - and spark children's interest through boats, birds, bugs, science, art, music, history and culture. With a bit of nurturing, that seed of interest grows into a lifelong relationship and results in everyday river stewardship by everyday people.

Partners include Friends of the Mississippi River, Hamline University, Center for Global Environmental Education, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Adopt-a-River, Fort Snelling State Park, Project WET), Minnesota Historical Society, Historic Fort Snelling, Mississippi River Fund, Padelford Packet Boat Co., Inc., Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul Public Schools, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community.

See the Video

 

Media Contacts and Resources
Lyndon Torstenson (NPS Ranger and Manager of Educational Partnerships) 651-293-8426.
 
Students on board the paddleboat peering through a microscope at an insect.

Students Study Macroinvertebrates
Students determine water quality by capturing and then identifying the types of insects found in the river. Some insects are more sensitive to pollution than others.

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A uniformed ranger helps students with a geology lesson.

A Ranger Helps Students with Mississippi River Geology
Students learn about the geology of the Mississippi River and how that geology played a role in the area's development.

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BRJ Boarding at Ft Snelling

School group assembling at Fort Snelling State Park
A class gets ready to board the Anson Northrup for the Big River Journey.

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Boarding BRJ

Boarding the Anson Northrup at Fort Snelling State Park
Ready for the Big River Journey, a group lines up to board the Anson Northrup.

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Students with a Soldier at Ft. Snelling

Students with a Soldier from Fort Snelling
History is an important part of the Big River Journey. A visit to Fort Snelling takes participants back in time.

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BRJ on-board science

Scientific Exploration Abord the Anson Northrup
While aboard the boat, students study science related to the river. Here, students are studying insects with a microscope.

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BRJ birding

Ranger Identifying a Bird
With the help of a NPS ranger, students spot a bird on the shores of the Mississippi River.

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Did You Know?

The wide Mississippi River

At Lake Onalaska, near LaCrosse WI, the Mississippi River is about 4 miles wide. The combination of water held behind Lock and Dam #7 and water held by damming the Black River form this broad reach of the Mississippi River.