Tag Archives: Arkansas

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:

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.

Bike the Great River Road this summer

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

citylakes_7099 biking on minneapolis chain of lakes (1)The Great River Road is one of America’s best drives, but did you know that it’s a great route to explore on a bike as well?

From scenic road routes to paved riverside trails, biking opportunities abound along the Great River Road. Plus, you’ll find rides and races in communities up and down the Mississippi River.

Learn more about some of the biking options in each of the Great River Road states:

 

Must-see birding on the Great River Road

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Roseate spoonbill

Roseate spoonbill

The Great River Road is one of the world’s premier spots for birding. The road traces the Mississippi Flyway, a migration route followed by 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl and shorebirds. The Great River Road is flanked by vast refuges, expansive forests and beautiful parks that provide rich habitat and protection for these beautiful creatures.

Travelers on the Great River Road have the opportunity to encounter an abundance of species and there are endless places to relax and take in the beauty of the flyway’s birds.

Here are some great places to start a birding adventure on 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.

 

Top 5 birds to see on the Great River Road

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Photo: Tom Jerisha

Photo: Tom Jerisha

With warm spring temperatures come the flocks of migratory birds, flying north along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Flyway is the migration route followed by 40% of all waterfowl and shorebirds in North America. Wildlife refuges, state forests, federal forests and parks protect the crucial habitat and food sources for these birds.

Grab a pair of binoculars, because you won’t believe the variety of fowl that nests along the Mississippi. Here are a few of our favorites, and where you can find them:

  1. Bald eagle. Watch our nation’s bird soar over the pines and lakes along the Mississippi. Nearly every state from Arkansas to Minnesota boasts superb bald eagle viewing. The conditions of the Mississippi are simply plentiful. If you want to learn more about the majestic bird, the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota is a regional favorite for group visits. Climb into an eagle’s nest, meet the resident raptors, or join a guided field tour to see the birds the in wild. Further south, at the Mississippi River Visitor Center in Rock Island, Illinois, you’ll find a bald eagle hot spot. This location is best in late winter and very early spring, when the eagles gather near the open water to feed.
  2. White pelican. These shy white birds start migrating north in early March. They’re frequently spotted near locks and dams near state parks, like the Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Bellevue, Iowa.
  3. Prothonotary Warbler. This small vibrantly yellow songbird is conspicuous all along the lower Mississippi River states, like Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. When the weather warms, you’re sure to spot it migrating north from its summer near the West Indies. It forges for food in hardwood swamps and nests in natural and artificial cavities like woodpecker holes.
  4. Great blue heron. Watch this majestic bird stalk its prey in shallow wetlands before taking flight with a loud squawk and a loud thump from its 6 foot wingspan. Great blue herons nest in treetop colonies called rookeries. You can find rookeries along the islands in Minnesota, like the North Mississippi River Park in Minneapolis, or the wetlands of Tennessee.
  5. Ivory-billed woodpecker. If you happen to spot this quirky bird, consider yourself one of the few. Thought to be extinct, this bird was spotted flying over Arkansas in 2002. The Dale Bumpers White River Widelife Refuge in Arkansas is home to 300 lakes and ponds, making the Bottomland Hardwood Forest and the White River an ideal home for migrating birds, and maybe, just maybe, the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Want more birding advice for your Great River Road experience? Be sure to check out our page devoted to bird-watching.

Three antebellum homes to see along the Great River Road

Friday, April 24, 2015

Travelers along the southern portion of the Great River Road will find a bevy of historical sites and attractions, but antebellum homes—massive, ornate pre-Civil War properties that sit along the Mississippi River—are some of the South’s most interesting attractions. Here are three you shouldn’t miss.

Lakeport Plantation, Lake Village, Ark.Lakeport Plantation

Lakeport Plantation is the only remaining Arkansas antebellum plantation on the Mississippi River. The home now serves as a museum and educational center teaching visitors about the Johnson family (who occupied the home until 1927), as well as the cotton industry and other historical events that affected residents in the Lake Village area.

Dunleith Historic Inn, Natchez, Miss.

Before the Civil War, the river town of Natchez, Miss., was home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States. Many of these wealthy residents’ impressive homes are now open to visitors for tours or even overnight stays, including the Dunleith Historic Inn. Dunleith, recently seen in the James Brown biopic “Get on Up”, was built in 1856 and sits on 40 beautifully landscaped acres. Several buildings on the property date back to the 1790s, including the carriage house and stables, and a dairy barn.

Nottoway Plantation, White Castle, La.

The largest remaining antebellum home in the South, the Nottaway Plantation House is a staggering 53,000 square feet and contains 64 rooms, seven staircases and five galleries. Built along the banks of the Mississippi River in 1858, the home also features an impressive ballroom painted in all white (including the floor). The plantation has recently undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation now features a resort with 40 overnight rooms, a restaurant, and more.

Travel through History Along Arkansas’s Great River Road

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arkansas is rich in history and there’s no better way to take it all in than a trip down the Great River Road.

Delta Cultural Center

Located in downtown Helena, the Delta Cultural Center is really two buildings. The Depot features two permanent exhibits, one telling the story of the Arkansas Delta and its people, from prehistoric days to the present and the second detailing the role the state played in the Civil War. One block away you’ll find the Visitors Center, which is home to several traveling exhibits and its permanent feature, Delta Sounds. Delta Sounds features listening stations where visitors can listen to all the music of the Arkansas Delta, including blues, gospel and rockabilly. It’s also home to the longest running daily blues radio show in the U.S. – King Biscuit Time.

Lake Chicot State Park

Lake Chicot is Arkansas’s largest natural lake. This 20-mile long oxbow lake was part of the Mississippi River until centuries ago, when the river altered its course and the lake was cut off. Now the lake is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to its location along the Mississippi Flyway, the birding is fantastic and the water is rife with crappie, bass and catfish. There are campsites and cabins and boat and bicycle rentals to round out your visit.

Lakeport Plantation

The Lakeport Plantation house in Lake Village is the last remaining antebellum Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River. Built in 1859, the home has been beautifully restored into a museum focusing on the lifestyles and relationships between and people who lived and worked at Lakeport.

Parkin Archeological State Park

Parkin Archeological State Park was the site of a former American Indian village from A.D. 1000 to 1600 which is believed to be Casqui, the village visited by explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541. Archeological excavations are often underway here and can be viewed via guided tour. Exhibits and audio tours are also available. Parkin remains one of the last archeological sites of its kind in the region as many were destroyed during the settling of eastern Arkansas.

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.