Summer heat got you beat? Don’t worry—there are plenty of places to keep it cool along the Great River Road this summer, from waterparks and beaches to exploring the waters of the mighty Mississippi River itself. Here’s a closer look.
Waterparks & other attractions
Located in Grafton, Illinois—just a short drive from St. Louis—Raging Rivers Water Park covers 24 acres and boasts multiple waterslides, a 700-foot-long lazy river, an 18,000-square-foot wave pool, and the Tree House Harbor interactive play area.
Those looking to beat the heat in Memphis can head to Shelby Farms Park—a 4,500-acre natural area in the eastern part of the city—to find the Water Play Sprayground, a 4,000-square-foot play area perfect for kids that features a water tunnel, interactive jets, geyser boulders and more. There are also more than 20 bodies of water to explore in the park itself.
Parks, lakes & beaches
While you’ll obviously see the mighty Mississippi and other rivers as you cruise the Great River Road, the region is also home to some notable lakes that are great places to explore on a summer day. One must-see stop is Itasca State Park in far northern Minnesota, where you can walk across (or wade into) the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
Wyalusing State Park is one of western Wisconsin’s most scenic sites, offering stunning views of the Mississippi River from the towering limestone bluffs, but head just a few minutes south and you’ll find a popular public beach along the river in the town of Wyalusing.
Head to Deep Lakes Park—the site of former sand and gravel pits that now boasts more than 120 acres of water for boating and other watersports—in Muscatine, Iowa, to find a large swimming beach on the shores of Lake Chester
Located in northeastern Arkansas, Mississippi River State Park is home to stunning Delta scenery and lots of opportunities for fun on the water, including canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, as well as two swimming beaches on Bear Creek Lake and Storm Creek Lake.
Canoeing & kayaking
Want to get out on the Mississippi River itself? Quapaw Canoe Company has locations in Clarksdale and Vicksburg in Mississippi and offers guided canoe adventures along the Lower Mississippi River, including day trips (where you can have a picnic lunch on a sandbar in the river), multi-day camping trips, public trips and more.
New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours offers—what else?—guided kayak tours of New Orleans and its surrounding waterways, including the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, Manchac Swamp, and the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area.