Category Archives: Kentucky

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month Along the Great River Road

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich history of our great nation, especially the Native American influences along the Great River Road. Here are a few stops along the Mississippi that honor the diverse cultures and influences of Native American people.

  • Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa) – Located just four miles north of Marquette, Iowa these sacred mounds are associated with as many as 20 different American Indian tribes. There are more than 200 mounds surrounded by some of the most beautiful views of the Upper Mississippi River Valley you’ll ever experience.
  • Toolesboro Indian Mounds & Museum (Iowa) – These Wapello, Iowa mounds claim to be the “best-preserved and accessible remains of an ancient culture flourishing from 200 B.C. to A.D. 300.” Stop in the visitor center to learn about the Hopewellian people who created these beautiful mounds.
  • Black Hawk State Historic Site (Illinois) – This site in Rock Island was home to native peoples beginning 12,000 years ago up until about A.D. 250. This area was the land of the Sauk and Meskwaki people, then an amusement park, then a rail line. In the 1930s, veterans of the First World War transformed it into a historic site with trails, parking lots and shelters, planting trees and wildflowers along the way.
  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (Illinois) – Cahokia was once one of the greatest cities in the world, and was larger than London in A.D. 1250. These remains claim to be of “the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico.” It’s also home to Monks Mound, the largest man-made earthen mound in North America. The people of this area were builders, unsurpassed in their skills at the time.
  • Wickliffe Mounds (Kentucky) – In Wickliffe, Kentucky you’ll find the site of a village once belonging to the Mississippian Native Americans. Beginning about 900 years ago, these peaceful farmers grew and prospered here until the village was mysteriously abandoned in the 1350s. Don’t miss the Archaeology Walking Trail tour or the hands-on activity stations.
  • Trail of Tears State Park (Missouri) – This scenic state park is a sobering reminder of one of America’s saddest chapters, the Trail of Tears March, which forced tens of thousands of Cherokees from their homes. A stop here will help you to better understand the great sacrifice native people endured.
View from Fire Point, Effigy Mounds, Iowa

View from Fire Point, Effigy Mounds, Iowa

Family Fun on the Great River Road

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August is Family Fun Month, so hop in the car, get on the Great River Road and check out these family-friendly stops along the way.

  • MinnesotaMall of America, the largest shopping mall in the country is in Bloomington, Minnesota. Sure there are more than 400 stores, but there’s also a theme park, an aquarium, a comedy club, a mini golf course and more. Fun for all ages and interests. Bring your sneakers.
  • Wisconsin – In La Crosse, drive or hike to the top of Grandad Bluff. Have a picnic and enjoy the amazing views of this robust river town. After lunch, head downtown to the Gertrude Salzer Gordon Children’s Museum. You’ll find three floors of hands-on exhibits, including a giant Operation game, a kid-sized convenience store and a television news set.
  • Iowa – The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque is a must-see. Learn about the history of the river with historical exhibits and 3D and 4D theaters, then visit the aquarium and explore the wildlife that calls the river home, including turtles, fish, otters, even alligators!
  • Illinois – Head to Grafton and conquer your fear of heights together as a family! The Grafton Zipline at Aerie’s Winery has nine lines, nearly two miles in total length. Peak height? 250 feet up. It’s an exciting experience that’s safe enough for even your little ones.
  • Missouri – Your kids are bound to come across Mark Twain’s many works during their school years. Take them to Hannibal, Missouri to visit the author’s boyhood home. (It’s where the real adventures of Tom Sawyer took place!) You can also visit the Huckleberry Finn House, where the real Huck Finn grew up, and see seasonal performances of Twain’s works.
  • Tennessee – In the northwest corner of Tennessee you’ll find Reelfoot Lake State Park. The lake was created in the early 1800s by violent earthquakes that forced the Mississippi River to flow backwards. If that cool story isn’t enough for you, the lake is also a flooded forest, dotted with Cypress trees and home to tons of wading birds and waterfowl. Catch a canoe or pontoon boat tour and explore this unique gem.
  • Arkansas – Arkansas’s largest natural lake, Lake Chicot is a site to behold. Twenty miles long, the lake is nestled in a pecan grove, so the scenery is absolutely stunning. Rent a pontoon, fishing boat or kayak and spend the day exploring. There are wildlife tours available and a visitor center with interpretive exhibits that tell the story of the area’s natural history.
  • Mississippi – In Clarksdale, you’ll find the Delta Blues Museum. Situated in the “land of the blues,” this museum will teach your kids valuable musical history through sculptures, photography, interactive exhibits and of course, plenty of tunes.
  • Louisiana – At the end of the Great River Road, you’ll find great family fun. New Orleans is home to the Audubon Zoo, one of the top-ranked zoos in the country, with unique animals like white tigers and white alligators. It’s also home to Mardi Gras World, a hands-on museum celebrating the annual festival. Here kids can watch the floats being built, try on traditional costumes and sample king cake.

Enjoy Bike Month Along the Great River Road

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May is National Bike Month, so hook the bike on the car and hop on the Great River Road for an early summer adventure you won’t soon forget.

Try exploring a classic river town on two-wheels along the Mississippi River Trail. It’s nearly 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways and pedestrian and bike paths you can take from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

Check out these National Wildlife Refuges along the Mississippi River Trail:

  • Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (240,000 acres, 241 river miles long through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa)
  • Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge (15,000 acres, part of the largest bottomland hardwood swamp in America, runs through Louisiana)

Or bike to a national park:

  • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka the St. Louis Gateway Arch)
  • Natchez National Historical Park (Natchez, Mississippi; see an antebellum estate)
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (New Orleans, Louisiana; made of six sites where you can learn about everything from wildlife to the Battle of New Orleans)

Find out more about the Mississippi River Trail and get detailed maps here.

A Mississippi River Valentine

Thursday, February 12, 2015

sept 30 great river road bridge, helena arThere are numerous places along the Great River Road that are best enjoyed with a loved one.  The beauty of this amazing river is simply wonderful to share. Here are seven beautiful spots along the Great River Road to savor with someone special.

Great River Bluffs State Park, Winona, Minnesota: Enjoy breathtaking views of the Mississippi River Valley.

Perrot State Park, Trempealeau, Wisconsin: Walk up to the overlook and take in amazing river views from the Wisconsin bluffs.

Effigy Mounds National Monument, Harpers Ferry, Iowa: See more than 200 American Indian mounds in this picturesque protected area.

Sunset Park, Rock Island, Illinois: This is a perfect place to watch the light change as the day grows late.

Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, Wickliffe, Kentucky: Enjoy a spectacular view of the bluff area on top of the Ceremonial Mound.

LSU Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: This picturesque site offers a look at the past and it serves as a beautiful backdrop of many weddings and special events.

Learn more about special places on the river here.

Celebrate Drive the Great River Road month

Thursday, September 04, 2014

sept 1 great river road red wing mnSeptember is Drive the Great River Road Month, a great time to explore America’s longest and oldest National Scenic Byway.

Fall is the perfect time to drive the Great River Road. Vibrant colors paint the trees from Minnesota to northern Mississippi, and you’ll find festivals, farmers markets and fun activities all along the Mississippi River corridor.

Looking for a few things to see and do in each of the 10 Great River Road states? We’ll head north to south with our suggestions:

  • Minnesota: Want to see where the Mississippi River starts its journey to the Gulf of Mexico? Visit Itasca State Park in Minnesota, where you can walk – yes, walk – across the headwaters of the Mississippi.
  • Wisconsin: A perfect stop to see fall color, Grandad Bluff in La Crosse gives you a 600-foot-high view of the city below and the Mississippi River beyond.
  • Illinois: Make a stop in the charming community of Galena, where you can find historic sites, tempting shopping, and toast-worthy wineries.
  • Iowa: Want a great view? Hop aboard Dubuque‘s Fenelon Place Elevator, the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway. Ride to the top for an astonishing panoramic view of the Mississippi River and three states.
  • Missouri: This stop isn’t really more of a where, it’s a what: St. Louis barbecue. St. Louis has dozens of delicious barbecue options, including perennial favorite Pappy’s Smokehouse.
  • Kentucky: Learn about the Mississippi River’s role in the Civil War at Columbus-Belmont State Park, where you can find a six-ton anchor that – along with a mile-long chain – was used to blockade the river during battles between the North and South.
  • Tennessee: Students of American history should visit The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, an educational experience built around the preserved Lorraine Motel. Learn about the struggle for civil rights in America and see the preserved hotel rooms where Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his last hours.
  • Arkansas: Don’t miss the The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, which welcomes tens of thousands of blues fans to the Mississippi Delta every year. Don’t miss this year’s festival Oct. 8-11.
  • Mississippi: Traveling through the Mississippi Delta? Stop by the Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center and Museum on Highway 61 in Tunica. There, you’ll find valuable travel tips and advice from area experts. The museum is scheduled to open later this year.
  • Louisiana: You might recognize this place from numerous movies and TV shows — Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie welcomes visitors with an awe-inspiring canopy of 300-year-old oak trees leading to a pristine antebellum plantation.

Find more attractions in each state here.

 

Three Things to See on the Great River Road in Kentucky

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rural beauty is what you’ll find along the Great River Road as it passes through Kentucky. Here are three places you should visit on your next trip along this scenic stretch of the byway.

_B9V6001Traveling north along the Great River Road in Kentucky, your first stop should be Columbus-Belmont State Park. The park located on the banks of the Mississippi River and is home to an interesting Civil War Museum housed in a farmhouse that was once a Confederate hospital. During the Civil War, a fort was built at Columbus and armed with 143 canons. The park includes a snack bar, gift shop, mini golf, a picnic area and campground.

Further north, you’ll find Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site. From A.D. 1100 to 1350, a Native American village occupied the site at Wickliffe Mounds. The settlement included earthen mounds and homes overlooking the Mississippi River. Today, the area is an archeological site. A museum includes exhibits displaying Mississippian-era pottery, stone tools, artifacts and artwork. Climb atop the Ceremonial Mound for great views of the area.

A short drive east from the Great River Road, you’ll find Paducah. This charming community was recently named a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art. Stop by the National Quilt Museum and explore the city’s many shops and galleries.

Spotlight KY: Columbus-Belmont State Park

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Columbus-Belmont State Park combines rich Civil War history with lush Kentucky beauty for an excellent family travel destination. The park is uniquely educational, standing as a National Trail of Tears Site, and featuring a museum highlighting Civil War history. Aside from receiving an intriguing history lesson, visitors can enjoy the natural wonders of Kentucky by camping out at one of the park’s 38 sites and hiking along picturesque bluffs of the Civil War Heritage Trail. There’s plenty to do and see at the Columbus-Belmont State Park.

Contact:
Columbus-Belmont State Park
350 Park Road
Columbus, KY 42032
(270) 677-2327
Cindy.lynch@ky.gov

September is Drive the Great River Road Month

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

American QueenPlan a fun and memorable road trip this September along the Great River Road! This 3,000-mile long byway is one of the oldest, longest and most unique in North America, and along the way you’ll find plenty to explore.  Experience a variety of cultures as you travel down the river, from Midwestern Minnesota and Iowa down to Southern Mississippi and Louisiana and all of the cultural blend in between.

Your trip down the Mississippi should include stops in each of the bordering ten states. Plan to see popular attractions like the Mall of America in Bloomington, Navy Pier in Chicago, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and more. Experience natural wonders, captivating historical sites and rich agriculture as well. There’s so much to see along the Great River Road! Plan your trip down the river this September.