Four reasons to travel the Great River Road

Friday, September 01, 2017

September is Drive the Great River Road Month, a perfect time to explore the best scenic driving route in America. The seasons are changing and the beauty on the road is simply unforgettable. In the northern stretches of the route, fall is in full swing and leaves are turning brilliant shades of red, yellow and gold. Further south along the route, humidity of the summer is giving way to perfect fall weather. 

And don’t forget: you can enter the Drive the Great River Road Month Sweepstakes for a chance to win $500 for your next road trip!

Need any more reasons to drive the route this month? Here are four:

Interpretive centers

Along the Great River Road, you’ll find a network of more than 70 museums and historic sites that showcase the culture and history of the river. Learn about the area’s rich Native American history, explore the boyhood history of Mark Twain, sample the nation’s brewing traditions, see majestic eagles in flight and more. Learn about the route’s interpretive centers here.

This Labor Day weekend, be sure to check out Snapchat filters at select interpretive centers and attractions along the Great River Road. You can find them at:

  • Itasca State Park, Minnesota
  • Grandad Bluff, La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Villa Kathrine, Quincy, Illinois
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa
  • Columbus-Belmont State Park, Kentucky
  • Arkansas Welcome Center on Lake Chicot in Lake Village, Arkansas
  • Discovery Park, Union City, Tennessee
  • Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana

Birdwatching

Migratory birds are on the move, heading south along the Mississippi Flyway, a migratory route that follows the Mississippi River through the United States. The river offers rich habitat for birds, and birders flock to the route every fall to take in the show. Learn about planning your Great River Road birding adventure here.

Fall color & agritourism

The Great River Road offers some of the heartland’s most spectacular scenery. It’s lined with parks and overlooks that are wonderful places to take in the season’s beauty. River bluffs are popular photography spots this time of year. It’s also an ideal time to stop by one of the many wineries and apple orchards along the route. See a listing of agritourism attractions here.

Events

There’s a lot happening along the Great River Road in the fall. Catch an NFL game in Minnesota or Louisiana, a blues concert in Tennessee or Mississippi, a farmers’ market in Iowa, a hoedown in Kentucky, a fall festival in Wisconsin, an Oktoberfest celebration in Illinois or a music festival in Arkansas. The options for fun are almost limitless this fall!

Where to watch the solar eclipse on the Great River Road

Monday, August 07, 2017

On Aug. 21, a large swath of the Great River Road will go dark in the middle of the day. This year’s total solar eclipse is a remarkable natural phenomenon that’s drawing people from around the world to states along the Mississippi River, and events are planned for many communities on or near the Great River Road in the “path of totality”—that is, where a total solar eclipse is visible.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in some communities along the Great River Road and in nearby counties.

Illinois

Waterloo: Solarbration, Monroe County Fairgrounds. Live music, food and more.

Carbondale: Variety of events planned; learn more here.

 

Missouri

Chesterfield: Head to the Chesterfield Amphitheater for the TOTALITY Solar Eclipse event. Live music, food trucks, a micro brew village, vendors, games, educational sessions and more.

Arnold: The community of Arnold has a weekend of events planned at its Total Solar Eclipse Party on Aug. 19-21.

Festus: Travel to West City Park for a special eclipse event on Aug. 21, including informational presentations and more. More information here.

Cape Girardeau: Witness the first total eclipse visible in Cape Girardeau in more than 750 years (yes, really) from the Cape Sportsplex. Learn more here.

Perryville: Perryville welcomes visitors at its Solarfest event on Aug. 18-19 before the main event on Monday. Find more information here.

Kentucky

Kentucky Great River Road: Communities like Barlow, Wickliffe, and Columbus are offering events all weekend long leading up to the eclipse. Head to the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site for a fun weekend of events. Find more events along the Kentucky Great River Road.

A Mississippi River musical adventure

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A drive along the Great River Road will take you through a region steeped with musical history and tradition. Head into the southern states along the river to discover rich musical heritage that is preserved in the Great River Road Interpretive Centers, local festivals and lively venues. Sound like a good time? Here are three states to hit on your next musical adventure.

Louisiana

Louisiana is a rich gumbo of musical traditions, including Cajun, Dixieland, Jazz, Blues, Country and Rock ‘n Roll. Head to the heart of New Orleans for a big helping of Louisiana’s musical offerings.

This famous hot spot is as famous for partying as it is for its live Jazz. Join the crowd and sample live music from great clubs like Fritzel’s European Jazz Club, Funky Butt, and Palm Court Jazz Café and iconic Preservation Hall.

Mississippi

The State of Mississippi gave birth to of Delta Blues, a style which is widely considered to be the progenitor of all other forms of the Blues.

Mississippi is Blues country and you’ll find Blues-related attractions, including Tunica’s Bluesville Showcase Night Club. A good place to begin your Mississippi Blues journey is the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.

Tennessee

Tennessee is another state steeped in musical history. Memphis is called the “Birthplace of the Blues” and is home to Beale Street, Tennessee’s most-visited attraction. See live blues music while enjoying a beverage and eating some of the region’s best ribs. Before leaving town, head to Graceland to see the famous estate of Elvis Presley.

Summer biking on the Great River Road

Monday, June 05, 2017

The summer biking season is here and it’s the perfect time to experience one of the greatest places to ride in America. Cyclists from around the world explore the Great River Road for good reason – it’s a route that travels through the heart of America, following the course of the mighty and iconic Mississippi River.

And right now, we’re giving away a chance to win $250 and some Great River Road gear for your next ride along the river! Enter today!

A ride on the Great River Road will take you along country roads, trails and levees, and on the way you’ll experience the remarkable history, culture and geography of the United States. Here are a few ways to enjoy the Great River Road by bike.

Weekend tours

Looking for adventure? Go for a bike tour on the Great River Road. The route is lined with bike friendly hotels and campgrounds so you’re never far from lodging. The route covers both sides of the river so loop routes are possible via bridges or ferries.

Trail rides

Pick a path! The Great River road is flanked by numerous bike trails perfect for a summer spin. Many of these trails are built on old rail beds that connected the river to the interior of the country. They provide flat, easy riding and are appropriate for riders of all ages and abilities.

Race getaways

If you have a need for speed, you can find it in the cities that line the Great River Road. You can find criteriums, road races, as well as multisport events like duathlons and triathlons. It’s a great excuse to head south – or north – with your crew. The climate changes significantly along the route so you can find ideal riding conditions.

Family spins

The Great River Road is a perfect place for a ride with the kids. There are plenty of parks with restrooms along the route that are good places to start a ride. There are also lots of places to get ice cream along the river, so there’s something sweet to look forward to at the end of the ride!

To explore biking opportunities on the Great River Road, check out these state travel links:

Scenic views along the Great River Road

Monday, May 08, 2017

Some of the most dramatic views of the heartland can be found along the Mississippi. In Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, towering bluffs allow travelers to take in sweeping views of the river and farms and forests below. They are great places to visit to go for a hike, have a picnic or simply pause to take in the view.

Here are some awe-inspiring spots to take in the scenery.

Perrot State Park, Trempealeau, Wisconsin

This forested Wisconsin State Park is located where the Trempealeau River meets the Mississippi River. From the top of 500-foot cliffs you can see for miles.

Grandad Bluff, La Crosse, Wisconsin

From this 600-foor bluff you can take in the city of La Crosse and the rolling landscape referred to as the Coulee Region. You can see three states from this vantage point – Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Great River Bluffs State Park, Winona, Minnesota.

This preserve features steep-sided 500-foot bluffs. Hike the King’s Bluff trail to discover a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River Valley.

Wyalusing State Park, Bagley, Wisconsin

This park offers a 500-foor view of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers as well as Native American burial mounds.

Pikes Peak State Park, McGregor, Iowa.

This park’s 500-foot bluffs offer fantastic views of the river valley from the Iowa side. It’s one of the most photographed spots in Iowa.

How to plan a Great River Road birding adventure

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Great River Road is one of the nation’s premier birding routes. The 3,000-mile National Scenic Byway traces the Mississippi Flyway, a bird migration route that follows the Mississippi River through the United States. Some birds that use this route travel from as far away as Patagonia to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north. For birds, it’s an ideal long-haul route as the river provides plenty of food and habitat. For bird lovers, the route offers an unparalleled way to see a spectacular number of North American birds.

Here are some tips for planning your Great River Road adventure.

# Plan to visit the locks and dams. Eagles and shore birds can be spotted on these structures on the river so they make excellent viewing spots. See a list of locks and dams here.

# Check out the Interpretive Centers. The Great River Road’s network of Interpretive Centers offer a chance to learn about the habitat and history of the Mississippi region. Some also have invaluable local birding advice.

# Look for the lookouts. The great River Road has some spectacular scenic overlooks that are perfect spots to watch migratory flocks. Many have adjacent trails that offer additional birdwatching opportunities.

# Use the Great River Road’s navigational tools. The free Great River Road map is a full-color map with helpful information about the entire route. Order your free copy today! Download the fun and easy Drive the Great River Road app for additional information about the route.

# Enter the Birding Bonanza Giveaway. You could win $250 for a birding tip along the Great River Road!

Here are some good bets for birdwatching along the Great River Road.

Itasca State Park. The home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, Itasca State Park in Minnesota, hosts birds in its boreal forests and mixed hardwoods. Established in 1891, Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest park. With 222 species found here, it’s also one of Minnesota’s premier birding locations.

Reelfoot Lake State Park. Located in the northwest corner of Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake was created by a series of earthquakes in the early 1800s and today is a magnificent wildlife viewing and birding location. You’ll find many varieties of shore and wading birds here and white pelicans and eagles pay seasonal visits to the park.

National Eagle Center. Want to get up close and personal with an eagle? Pay a visit to Wabasha, Minn., where you can meet bald and golden eagles at daily demonstrations or take a look at eagles perched above the Mississippi River from the observation deck.

Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge—located in southeastern Arkansas—was created in 1935 specifically to protect migratory birds. Birders can find countless species among the beautiful forests and lakes.

Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. In western Kentucky near Benton, this 8,500-acre refuge contains bottomland hardwood forests used by over 200 species of neotropical songbirds for a migration stopover spot or for nesting.

 

Birdwatching hotspots on the Great River Road

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Birds are on the move above the Mississippi River! The Mississippi River flyway is a migration route followed by 40 percent of North America’s water and shore birds. Song birds, raptors, ducks and wading birds all travel this route this season. For bird lovers, this is paradise. Travelers on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway will find endless spots for taking in the show. Part of the fun of birding is finding your own special locations, but here are some good bets to get you started.

 

Barn Bluff Scenic Overlook, Red Wing.

You can summit this 340-foot bluff via a trail and some steps. It’s worth the effort. It offers panoramic views of the Mississippi River and Red Wing below and it’s the perfect place to spot flocks traveling north.

Perrot State Park, Trempealeau, Wisconsin.

This park also offers a bird’s eye view of the Mississippi River. Keep your binoculars handy; this is the spot where the Trempealeau River meets the Mississippi and it’s fantastic habitat for birds.

Pike’s Peak State Park, McGregor, Iowa

This is one of the most photographed places in Iowa for a reason – it offers majestic views of the river channels below. The wooded park has some nice birding trails – keep an eye out for pileated woodpeckers. Not far from parking areas, you’ll find breathtaking vistas that are perfect spots to see passing flocks.

Lake Chicot State Park, Arkansas

This lake was once part of the Mississippi River, before it was cut off from the main channel centuries ago. It’s 20 miles long – the largest natural lake in Arkansas. It’s great habitat for wetland birds and it draws birders throughout the year.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve, Louisiana

The Barataria Preserve here is a land of forests bayous. It’s fantastic biding country. You’ll find more than 200 species of birds including herons, egrets, vultures, and ducks.

Four things to love about the Great River Road

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Miss.

Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Miss.

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway traces the mighty Mississippi River through the heart of the America, from the snow-frosted forests of the north to the moss-covered groves of the Mississippi Delta. There are more than 3,000 beautiful miles of open road to explore, so no two trips are alike, and there are always new views to take in, new people to meet and new surprises to discover. 

Here are a four things to love about this unforgettable route:

Historic sites

The Mississippi River is drenched in history. Along the Great River Road, you’ll encounter beautiful architecture, impressive native history and the legacy of early settlers and adventurers. The route features sites like Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa and  the New Madrid Historic Museum in Missouri.

Scenic overlooks

The Great River Road has scores of inspiring vistas. Pull over and take time to relax at these beautiful spots. Watch the sun set, see eagles drift on the wind or take in the sight of massive barges hauling freight. Check out Sunset Park, Wyalusing State Park and the Old Mississippi River Bridge Scenic Overlook.

Fascinating museums

The Great River Road will take you to memorable museums that share the story of this great river, from the days before European settlement to the time when it became a center of industry that helped fuel a fast-developing world. Museums on the road include the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa , the Delta Blues Museum and the Louisiana State Museum.

Natural areas

The Great River Road will also take you to some beautiful parks and recreation areas. They are fantastic places to take a short nature stroll or a longer and more ambitious hike. Wildlife is abundant in these parks and you’ll encounter habitat unlike anyplace else on earth. Some great parks on the route include Reelfoot Lake State Park, Lake Chicot State Park and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve.

Find more museums, scenic overlooks and natural areas along the Great River Road here. Also, be sure to download the free Drive the Great River Road app to help guide you on your trip.

National treasures on the Great River Road

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A new year will be here soon and it’s the perfect time to plan a trip on the Great River Road. There are more than 70 designated Great River Road Interpretive Centers to discover on the route. These interpretive centers include a variety of national museums and monuments. Like the Great River Road, they are national treasures worth exploring. They help tell the story of the river, including its ecology, events of the past and the people who have called this region home.

See a list of Great River Road attractions here. Here are details of some of the national museums and monuments you’ll find on the route.

Minnesota

National Eagle Center. Wabasha, Minnesota. Eagles are a regular sight on the Great Rover Road. Learn about this magnificent creature and see the birds up close in this fascinating center in the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

Wisconsin

National Brewery Museum, Potosi

Visit the Great River Road Interpretive Center at the Potosi Brewing Company and visit the National Brewery Museum. This fun museum is a joint venture between the Potosi Foundation and the American Breweriana Association. It has an eclectic collection of beer bottles and cans, glasses, trays, coasters, advertising materials and more..

Iowa

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, Dubuque, Iowa

This beautiful museum showcases the culture and history of the Mississippi River. It has more than a dozen aquariums that display wildlife representative of the river, including sturgeon and giant catfish.

Illinois

National Great Rivers Museum, Alton

This interesting museum features a variety of interactive displays about the Mississippi River, including a display that illustrates the Mississippi Lock and Dam System. Visitors can also try their hand at steering a barge!

Mississippi

Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg

This park preserves the site of the Battle of Vickburg, a key event in the American Civil War. It also commemorates the greater campaign that led up to th battle.

Great River Road Fun Facts

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s wise to have some conversation starters on hand. Check out these Great River Road fun facts!

  • From the headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the grand finale in New Orleans, Louisiana, it would take 22 hours of non-stop driving to complete one half of the Great River Road.
  • But, if you were a raindrop, it’d take you 90 days to travel the same distance!
  • Minnesota has the longest portion of the Great River Road at 575 miles long.
  • Kentucky is home to the smallest section of the Great River Road, just 63 miles.
  • The Great River Road runs on both sides of the river, except between Hastings, Minnesota and the byway’s northern terminus.
  • Great River Road town Hannibal, Missouri is the hometown of famed author Mark Twain.
  • Two-thirds of Wisconsin’s Great River Road passes along or through protected natural areas.
  • Some of the oak trees along Louisiana’s Great River Road are more than 300 years old!
  • Illinois’s Great River Road is home to the confluence of three rivers – the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois.
  • River town Alton, Illinois has been named “One of the Most Haunted Small Towns in America” by the Travel Channel.
  • Accolades come easy for the Great River Road. It’s been named, “Prettiest Drive in America,” one of the “U.S.A.’s Ten Best Motorcycle Roads,” one of the “1,000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die,” and “Best Drive in America.”