Tag Archives: Mississippi River

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.

 

Golfing the Great River Road

Thursday, March 24, 2016

ONA Golf Course 3_resultIt’s always worth making room in your trunk for some clubs when you’re driving the Great River Road. The route will take you past some of America’s finest courses and you’re never far from great golfing. The Mississippi River Valley features some spectacular terrain that makes for challenging play. Many courses offer dramatic views of the valley and the river beyond. Here are some golf courses to check out that are on or near America’s oldest and longest scenic byway:

Trempealeau Mountain Golf Club, Trempealeau, Wisconsin

This fun and challenging course is located on beautiful rolling farm land.

Galena Golf Club, Galena, Illinois

Built in 1927, the Galena Golf Club is an 18 hole, par 71 course that challenges golfers of all skill levels.

Emerald Greens, St. Louis, Missouri

This course provides beautiful views and a chance to see some of the Mississippi region’s wildlife.

Links at Riverside, Memphis, Tennessee

For more than a century, golfers have been playing this public course near the river’s edge, which is also a short drive from downtown Memphis.

River Bend Links, Robinsville, Mississippi

This par 72 links-style golf course presents the only true Scottish links course in the mid-South.

Audubon Park Golf Course, New Orleans

Located just minutes from downtown New Orleans, this immaculate 18-hole course is surrounded by century-old oak trees.

 

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.

Travel along the Great River Road with author Gayle Harper

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Want to take an amazing road trip along the Great River Road? Order your copy of “Roadtrip with a Raindrop: 90 Days Along the Mississippi River,” the latest book from travel photographer and author Gayle Harper.

gayle harper book

Harper’s award-winning book follows a raindrop named Serendipity as it takes the 90-day journey along the Mississippi River from its source in Minnesota until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Hear stories from the people who make their homes along the Mississippi and enjoy 200 color photos highlighting the voyage.

To order your own personalized, autographed copy, click here.

Also, every book comes with a free copy of the Great River Road 10-state travel map, which highlights interpretive centers and cities along America’s oldest National Scenic Byway.

Things we’re thankful for along the Great River Road

Thursday, November 19, 2015

davenportIt’s Thanksgiving next week, so we’re thinking about all the reasons we’re giving thanks this season. Here are just a few things we’re thankful for along the Great River Road.

Beautiful scenery. We’re past peak color season, but traveling the Great River Road in spring, summer and fall offers awe-inspiring scenery. Scenic areas along the Mississippi River bluffs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa provide spectacular views of the river and are especially picturesque in fall.

Delicious food. Farm-to-table delicacies. Mouth-watering barbecue. Fresh seafood. Whatever you have an appetite for, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it in your drive along the Great River Road. If you’re headed south on the Great River Road, be sure to visit New Orleans—one of the best food cities in the world.

Interesting attractions. Up and down the Great River Road, you’ll find scores of interesting attractions, from fish hatcheries to art museums to science centers. Stop by one of the more than 70 interpretive centers along the Great River Road to learn about the culture, heritage, history and ecology of the Mississippi River Region.

Hometown hospitality. From big cities like St. Louis, New Orleans and Minneapolis to small river towns across the northern and southern sections of the river, you’ll find friendly folks all along your drive. Spend some time exploring charming Main Streets or taking in the hustle and bustle of the big city (or give both a try).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Savor autumn on the Great River Road

Friday, September 25, 2015

Every autumn, you’ll see them: cars that are traveling slowly and are seemingly headed nowhere in particular. The cars have a destination, but it’s not a place; it’s a season. This is the time of year when people enjoy moving a little more slowly. They are savoring the season. This is the time when the air is a little fresher and the trees are ablaze in colors of red, yellow and orange.
During this season, many people take leisurely drives on country roads to admire the trees, explore apple orchards and wineries and discover beautiful parks. The Mississippi River region is a popular fall driving destination. With numerous state parks, scenic overlooks and abundant wildlife, the region is a spectacular place to explore on an autumn day.
The trees turn colors at different times, depending on the state. In northern states, colors are the most brilliant in September; in southern states colors reach their peak in early November. Days along the Mississippi can be warm this time of year, but evenings can be cool–be sure to pack a sweater or light jacket. And don’t forget your camera. Your pictures will be amazing. Enjoy your trip chasing autumn down the Mississippi.
Here are some great scenic overlooks to enjoy spectacular autumn views of the Mississippi.

Great River Bluffs State Park – Winona, Minnesota

Barn Bluff – Red Wing, Minnesota

Wyalusing State Park – Bagley, Wisconsin

Grandad Bluff – La Crosse, Wisconsin

Pike’s Peak State Park – McGregor, Iowa

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge – Madison, Illinois

Sunset Park – Rock Island, Illinois

Old Mississippi River Bridge Scenic Overlook – Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Trail of Tears State Park – Jackson, Missouri

Reelfoot Lake State Park Visitor Center – Tiptonville, Tennessee

 

 

 

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.

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.

Don’t miss these stops in the Pelican State

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

La's State Capitol - Baton

Louisiana state Capitol, Baton Rouge

Looking for some fun along the Great River Road in Louisiana? Be sure to check out these can’t-miss locations.

Baton Rouge. Louisiana’s capital city sits along the shores of the Mississippi River, and you’ll find an abundance of fun in the “Red Stick.” Visit area plantations, stop by the zoo or museum with the kids, take in an LSU football game or try your luck at the L’auberge Casino—it’s all available to you in Baton Rouge. Plan your Baton Rouge visit here.

Plantation country. All along the Great River Road in Louisiana, you’ll find beautiful, historic antebellum homes, many of which have lodging opportunities available. Be sure to visit the iconic Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Houmas House in Darrow or—if you’re brave—St. Francisville’s Myrtles Plantation, reputedly one of the most haunted spots in America.

New Orleans. If you’re ending your trip at the southern terminus of the Great River Road, well, there’s no better city to spend a well-deserved break. From Mardi Gras to live music on pretty much every corner to delicious food (don’t forget the beignets!) and intriguing history, the Big Easy offers something for every traveler. Learn more about visiting New Orleans here.

Looking for more Great River Road attractions in Louisiana? You can find them here.

Plan your Iowa Great River Road itinerary

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Traveling the Great River Road in Iowa? Be sure to add these stops to your list.

Pikes Peak State Park, McGregor. Come see why this northern Iowa state park is one of the most photographed areas in the entire state. Trek to the top of the 500-foot bluffs for a breathtaking view of the meeting of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. Pikes Peak is a fantastic spot to see fall colors in October.

Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park

Dubuque. Sitting across the Mississippi River from the Wisconsin/Iowa border, the city of Dubuque offers something for every traveler, whether you’re interested in dining, shopping, gaming, recreation or anything else. Ride the historic Fenelon Place Elevator or visit the Mines of Spain Recreation Area for a great view over the Mississippi River. Visit the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium to learn about the river and the animals that populate it. Try your luck at Diamond Jo Casino or Mystique Greyhound Park and Casino.

Putnam Museum, Davenport. Visit the largest museum in central Iowa to learn about everything from ancient Egypt to outer space. Don’t miss the Spark! Learning Lab, which offers hands-on exhibits on science and technology, including electrical circuits, chemistry and construction engineering.

Snake Alley, Burlington. Did you know that Iowa is home to the “crookedest street in the world”? Don’t miss Burlington’s Snake Alley, which was built in 1894 with locally fired bricks and hosts a bike race every Memorial Day weekend. See a full list of Iowa Great River Road attractions.