The Big River Journey

Students waving to a paddleboat running upriver.

Introduction to Big River Journey

Welcome aboard! Each school year over 4,000 third through fifth 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 65,000 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, Minneapolis Public Schools, Mississippi Park Connection, Padelford Packet Boat Co., Inc., Science Museum of Minnesota, and St. Paul Public Schools.

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.

Studying 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.

Examining 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

Boarding the Boat

A class gets ready to board the Anson Northrup for the Big River Journey.
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Boarding BRJ

Boarding the Anson Northrup

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

Marching with a Fort Snelling Soldier

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

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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Last updated: July 13, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone:

(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Visitor Center. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1 day, often sooner.

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