Great River Road – MS
- DesignationAll-American Road (2005/2009)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- LocationAR, IL, IA, KY, LA, MN, MS, MO, TN, WI
- Length382 of 3292.5 total miles
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.
Woodville/Wilkinson County Main Street Association
Port Gibson/Claiborn County Chamber of Commerce
Greenville/Washington County CVB
Clarksdale Coahoma County Tourism Commission
Story of the Byway
The Great River Road National Scenic Byway runs over 275 miles along the Mississippi River, following U.S. Highway 61. The byway represents an enormous wealth of historical, architectural, cultural and recreational resources for persons traveling through Mississippi. This byway is a joint effort between the Lower Mississippi Historic Byway and the Mississippi Delta Great River Road Byway, though it is also part of the Great River Road, which runs along both sides of the Mississippi River from the headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the mouth of the river at the Gulf of Mexico. This corridor captures multiple sites of historical significance at the local, state and national levels. The byway’s featured intrinsic quality is history; however, multiple intrinsic qualities are found along the byway, and every aspect of the scenic byways criteria can be found along this route.
The route in this state begins in the north of Mississippi along the Mississippi River at the Helena Bridge Although the farmlands and forests surrounding the route are considered to be among the richest on Earth, the area is as well known for its poverty as for the richness of the soil. The true richness of the region can be found in the landmarks and legends that continue to live through the residents of today. The people of the Delta remain loyal to these remarkable stories of resilience and recovery, of hope and hopelessness and of defeat and determination. Visitors will pass through Tunica Resorts and Robinsonville. The Tunica Resorts area is home to six casino resorts and once generated the third largest gambling revenues in the nation The route continues to Greenville, the heart and soul of the delta. Greenville is one of the five largest cities in Mississippi and is home to a charming certified Main Street. Visitors will find entertainment, historical sites, and delicious food.
As visitors enter into the lower Mississippi, visitors will connect with four of the oldest settlements along the Mississippi River, each town with sites of great historical significance: Vicksburg, Port Gibson, Natchez, and Woodville. In Vicksburg, visitors will discover the key to the Union’s victory in the Civil War. Confederate President Jefferson Davis remarked, "Vicksburg is the nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.” At the start of the Civil War, Confederates controlled the Mississippi River south of Cairo, Illinois all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. With it's valuable commercial port and railroad hub, the city was of tremendous importance. From points west of the Mississippi River, men, food, salt, and weapons, funneled through Mexico, made their way to Vicksburg and Confederate armies in the East. For 47 days, Union General U.S. Grant held Vicksburg under siege, resulting in a great victory for the Union. Travelling south, visitors will continue to learn more about this campaign in Port Gibson. In Natchez, visitors will be able to discover the luxuries of the antebellum era by exploring the many mansions in Natchez and learn more about the history of slavery and the Civil War. For those interested in far less recent history, the Emerald Mound Site makes a great place to visit. The Emerald Mound Site is home to three ceremonial mounds of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and a reconstructed Natchez house. The site was in use between 1200 and 1730 CE. As visitors approach the end of the byway in Mississippi, they should be sure to check out the Woodville Republican in Woodville, MS, the oldest surviving business in Mississippi, which was founded in 1823.
Follow U.S. Old Highway 61 south through Tunica from the Tennessee border. Upon reaching Lula, take U.S. Route 49 to Mississippi Route 1. The route then passes through Coahoma, Bolivar, Washington, and Issaquena counties. Visitors will be able to stop in the historic town of Greenville. Upon reaching Sharkey county, the route transitions to U.S. Route 61, which it will follow until it reaches the Louisiana border.
Points of Interest
Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum is the state’s oldest music museum and is dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and encouraging a deep interest in the story of the blues.
Vicksburg National Military Park
This site honors Vicksburg Civil War History. The fortifications of this site were seen as the “Gibraltar of the Confederacy,” and by winning this seige after an 18 month campaign, the Union forces were able to isolate Texas, Arkansas, and much of Louisiana.
The Emerald Mound Site
The Emerald Mound Site is one of the largest mounds in North America and was built between 1250 and 1600 AD as a ceremonial site for the local Native American population.
Delta Crossings: A Five Day Tour
Day 1: Arkansas and Mississippi
The journey begins in Tunica, Mississippi, at the Tunica RiverPark Museum. Tunica offers the Bluesville Showcase NightClub/Blues & Legends Hall of Fame Museum, the Tunica Queen Riverboat and several casinos.
From Tunica, cross the river and into Arkansas and head towards Helena, AR, and the Delta Cultural Center. Housed in a 1912 train depot, the Cultural Center features exhibits depicting the life of the people of the Delta from the 1800s through the 1940s. Exhibits focus on the history, art and culture of this remarkable area.
Your journey takes you southward along Hwy 44, to Hwy 20, to Hwy 316, to St. Charles and the White River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
You’re now in the lair of one of the world’s most elusive birds—the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Once thought to be extinct, this magnificent bird has reappeared in this area. Learn more about the Ivory-billed woodpecker and the unique flora and fauna of Arkansas’s vast bottomland forests.
You’ll head southward to Lake Village, located on Lake Chicot, a 20-mile long abandoned channel of the Mississippi River. The area offers several options for accommodations.
Day 2: Mississippi
From Lake Village, travel eastward, crossing the Mississippi River into the State of Mississippi. Then travel southward to Vicksburg, site of one of the most important battles of the Civil War. This is the site of the 1863 siege that helped give the Union control of the Mississippi River. It is also the home to the U.S.S. Cairo, a partially restored Civil War gunboat.
Your Mississippi River journey continues through Port Gibson, Lorman and Fayette to your final destination of Natchez. Stop at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center. Relive the thrilling adventure of the steamboat era. Enjoy a walk on the sky ramp to view the Mississippi atop the 200-foot Natchez Bluffs. Founded in 1716, you can tour Natchez’s historic downtown district by trolley, bus or horse-drawn carriage.
There are many lodging options in Natchez, as well as the Isle of Capri Casino.
Day 3: Louisiana and Mississippi
After leaving Natchez and heading south, cross into Louisiana. Continue south, passing a number of spectacular plantation homes, until you get to St. Francisville and the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum and Tourist Center. Built in a restored 1895 hardware store, this center features information about life along the Mississippi and seven spectacular mansions, known as the River Road Plantation homes, which extend from the Mississippi State Line south to St. Francisville.
From St. Francisville, continue southward to Baton Rouge. Explore this outdoor museum with more than 20 buildings depicting the various cultures of pre-industrial 19th-century Louisiana. Twenty-five acres of gardens offer classical statuary.
There are numerous lodging options in Baton Rouge, plus two riverboat casinos.
Day 4: Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi
The next morning, head west over the Mississippi River and then head north on the west side of the river. Your first stop of the day will be Morganza, LA. Early American Antiques (c.1840-1880) await the serious collector. A variety of gifts make up over 9,000 sq. ft. of pure shopping delight! You will continue north towards Epps, and the Poverty Point State Historic Site. This is one of the archeologically significant sites in North America, dating from 1700 to 700 B.C. An array of mounds and six rows of concentric ridges overlook the Mississippi floodplain. Tours are available from Easter to Labor Day.
From Epps, you will head north again, back into Arkansas and then over the river again into Mississippi. You’ll spend the night in Greenville, MS.
Day 5: Mississippi
Greenville Mississippi’s River Road Queen Welcome Center is your first stop of the day. This unique structure of this center is a replica of the steamboat that originally served as the Mississippi State exhibit at the 1984 New Orleans’s World’s Fair.
You will next visit the Delta Conservation Demonstration Center. Established in 1999 as a living, growing and learning center, this 638-acre facility demonstrates Delta-specific conservation practices in a working farm environment.
From Greenville, head north to Tunica, Mississippi, where your tour began. Tour the Tunica RiverPark Museum. The museum gives you a true water-level view of life along the Mississippi, with four aquariums, a life-sized tugboat simulator, diving bell and artifacts.
That concludes the five-day tour of the Mississippi Delta region.
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