The Great River Road is America’s oldest and longest National Scenic Byway, so it makes sense that it’s also home to a lot of history and unique attractions. Here are a few things you might not know about the Mississippi River and the cities and states along the Great River Road.
It takes approximately 90 days for a raindrop to travel the length of the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
Traveling along the Great River Road in Missouri? Here are a few “musts” to put on your itinerary.
1. Get to know Mark Twain’s hometown. Hannibal, Mo., which sits about two hours north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, was once home to a young lad by the name of Samuel Clemens. Now, you can visit this quaint river town and see how it celebrates the life and stories of Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. See where Twain lived and learn about his time here at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. And, if you’re in town on the Fourth of July, be sure to catch National Tom Sawyer Days, which features a fence-painting competition, a frog-jumping contest and more.
2. Visit the Saint Louis Art Museum. If you’re exploring St. Louis’ Forest Park (which you should, because you can get into great free attractions like the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri History Museum), be sure to take some time to take a look around the Saint Louis Art Museum, housed in one of the only surviving buildings from the 1904 World’s Fair. The museum (admission’s free here, too) boasts more than 33,000 works, covering everything from ancient Egypt to contemporary American art.
3. Travel to the top of the Arch. You can’t miss the opportunity to travel to the top of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch when you’re in town. A trip to the top of the 630-foot Arch will put you at the highest point in downtown St. Louis, and, if it’s a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view. (Be sure to take in the exhibits at the Arch to learn more about the history of St. Louis and the Arch itself, too.)
4. Learn about Missouri’s earthquake history (really). In 1811 and 1812, the river town of New Madrid in Missouri’s southeastern corner experienced three significant earthquakes, all with magnitudes of 7.5 or above. The temblors were felt as far away as New York City, Boston and in Washington, D.C., and caused the Mississippi River to run backwards for several hours. You can learn more about this unique seismic event and more at the New Madrid Historical Museum.
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