Details

  • DesignationAll-American Road (2000/2021)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Scenic
  • LocationAR, IL, IA, KY, LA, MN, MS, MO, TN, WI
  • Length328 of 3292.5 total miles
Byway Visitor Information
Mississippi River Parkway Commission
Statewide Byway Partners
Iowa Department of Transportation
Iowa Byways Map - Download
Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa offers great views of the Mississippi RIver and further east to the state of Wisconsin.
Jan Gammon Photo

Overview

The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River, the second longest river in America, begins as a trickle at Lake Itasca headwaters and grows and strength as it travels south to create state lines for 10 states. The byway lines both sides of the river in Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The river was important for settlement of the western United States as goods were shipped north. Logs, from northern forests, were shipped downstream to be cut into lumber for new settlements. The Mississippi River is teeming with history and culture as riverboats moved people up and down the river and gave travelers the opportunity to enjoy its music, like the blues in Tennessee, or the Cajun and Creole culture from New Orleans’ French Quarter, and Louisiana’s cooking, jazz, and blues.

The Mississippi offers a variety of recreational opportunities. Limestone cliffs line the river allowing for overlooks to see Mississippi’s splendid panoramas, or to enjoy the wildlife that calls the Mississippi River home, or to watch boats and barges as they navigate the Lock and Dam systems. Waterfalls, forests, prairies, and communities of every size dot the Great River Road. Be sure to allow time to enjoy its parks, beaches, museums, music, and food.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Follow the Mississippi River between Iowa’s southern and northern borders on the Iowa portion of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. You will find world-class vistas, charming river towns, magnificent limestone bluffs, and so much more. Part of a 3,000 mile-long network of federal, state, and county roads, the Great River Road stretches the length of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

The views of the river are ever-changing along the 328-mile route in Iowa. You may be looking down from the bluff at a panoramic scene or be right on the riverfront where you can dip your toes in the water. One constant as you travel this world-renowned route is the stories you’ll hear of the Mighty Mississippi and the nation it helped build.

Summer and Fall are two fun-filled travel times along the route. Both season include great contrast of floral and fauna against blue skies highlighting the Mighty Mississippi. Both season allow visitors to enjoy the sites, activities to their fullest potential. From blues festivals, minor league baseball, scenic overlooks, quaint shopping stops, hiking, biking, to interpretive centers there is something for everyone to enjoy. History and culture is rich along the route.

Many of the towns and cities along the route host events and celebrations throughout the year, highlighting historical events, cultural festivities, and other holidays or celebrations. The route website includes festivals and events to assist visitors in their route planning to inform them of the festivities along the way to help them with their travel plans.

The Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway is part of the 10-state Great River Road along the entire route of the Mississippi River.

Driving Directions

The Iowa Great River Road is a 341-mile route paralleling the west bank of the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa between Missouri and Minnesota. The Byway connects 10 counties-Lee, Des Moines, Louisa, Muscatine, Scott, Clinton, Jackson, Dubuque, Clayton, Allmakee. Major cities along the route include Dubuque, Davenport, Bettendorf, and Burlington.

The route offers varied settings: magnificent vistas of the River; upland woodlands and floodplain forests; various parks, preserves, conservation areas; agricultural, small farms, rural countryside; small-town main streets; distinctive
architecture.

Points of Interest

  • Old Fort Madison

    Discover the life of a private soldier stationed at Fort Madison in 1811. His life on the edge of the American frontier was fraught with danger and hardship amidst the drudgery of everyday duties at a government trading post.

  • Burlington Heritage Center Museum

    A renovated library built in 1898 houses educational exhibits on regional culture & history.

  • The National Pearl Button Museum @ The History and Industry Center

    The National Pearl Button Museum @ The History and Industry Center proudly tells Muscatine’s story in becoming the Pearl Button Capital of the World. Today, Muscatine thrives through entrepreneurship and manufacturing. The museum thrives today with your support to collect, preserve and interpret local industrial and entrepreneurial history, highlighting the past, present and future of the Muscatine area.

  • Nahant Marsh Education Center

    Nahant Marsh is a 305-acre preserve nestled in southwest Davenport. It is part of a 513-acre wetland complex that is bordered by the Mississippi River, Interstate 280, and Highway 22.

  • Mississippi Eco Tourism Center

    Come see the big fish of Iowa display and our new 8,000 gallon aquarium with local river fish species.Rent a canoe, kayak or paddle boat and explore the backwaters. Or go on a naturalist guided cruise aboard the Blue Heron pontoon boat.

  • Buffalo Bill Museum & River Pilots Pier

    Brings to life the history of its namesake alongside multiple other crown achievements in education, innovation, Native American contribution, agriculture, domestic household duties, and the good ole Mississippi River.

  • Sawmill Museum

    Attraction exploring the American lumber & forestry industries, with a vintage sawmill.

  • Mines of Spain & E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center

    Composed of untamed, wooded land, this 1432-acre park offers hiking, hunting, paddling & picnicking.

  • National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium & National Rivers Hall of Fame

    Cafe, aquarium, boatyard, cinema & exhibits exploring life in & around America's riverways.

  • Driftless Area Education & Visitors Center

    The cultural, recreational, natural, and historical significance of the Driftless Area is the primary focus of the interpretive exhibits at the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center. Featuring three levels and 10,000 sq. ft., the building is nestled beneath limestone bluffs with scenic river views. Here, at this very place, a new chapter has begun.

Itinerary

  • Great River Road Experience in Iowa

    Day 1

    Start at the Minnesota/Iowa border at New Albin and head south on Highway 26. At Lansing stop at the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center. Take County Road X52 to Harpers Ferry and then south on Highway 74. Stop at the Effigy Mounds National Monument and hike a short distance to see the mounds.

    The route continues through Marquette and McGregor. Stop at Pikes Peak State Park for breathtaking views of the Mississippi River and Wisconsin. Go on to Guttenberg and Balltown. Stop at Breitbach’s Country Dining and enjoy the overlook just down the street to the west. You can see the Mississippi River and the river valley for miles. Head on into Dubuque where you will find breweries, restaurants, supper clubs, diners, and hotels.

    Day 2

    Head south to Sabula and pick up Highway 67 which takes you into Clinton. Watch for winery signs along the road just north of town. Stop at Eagle Point Park for views of the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam #13. Head south out of Clinton on #67 to LeClaire, home of Buffalo Bill Cody and the American Pickers. Stop at the wineries, brew pubs, and distilleries. Enjoy the views and their locally sourced products.

    The route continues into Davenport, Muscatine, Wapello, Burlington, Montrose, and Keokuk before the Great River Road continues into Missouri. There are great views, wildlife areas, parks, and museums along the way. Stop at what interests you.

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