Great River Road – WI
- DesignationAll-American Road (2000/2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Cultural
- LocationAR, IL, IA, KY, LA, MN, MS, MO, TN, WI
- Length250 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.
Story of the Byway
The Great River Road National Scenic Byway of Wisconsin runs parallel to the Mississippi River and offers travelers splendid panoramas. Amidst the bluffs of Mississippi limestone, the route connects picturesque river towns that capture the voices of native peoples and early settlers and present wonderful recreational opportunities. The over 50 local parks, beaches, recreation areas, and the 12 State and 4 National recreation features of the scenic byway provide an abundance of activity options and expose visitors to an inviting rustic lifestyle.
The Great River Road National Scenic Byway of Wisconsin spans 250 miles along the Mississippi River through more than 33 historic river towns and villages. The 250 miles on Wisconsin State Highway 35 are marked by a green and white pilot’s wheel logo and National Scenic Byway signs.
Points of Interest
One of Wisconsin’s Great River Road’s historic downtowns dominated by 19th-century architecture and the longest main street without an intersection in the world (three miles).
Nelson Dewey State Park
A stunning scenic overlook of the Mississippi River from a 500-foot bluff with outstanding eagle watching locations.
Lock and Dam #6 in Trempealeau
Part of the lock and dam system constructed in the 1930s with an observation deck that allows visitors to watch ships and barges pass through the locks
A Day in Southern Wisconsin
Start in Kieler, just north of the Wisconsin/Illinois Border and head north on U.S. Route 61 to Potosi. Stop by the Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville, the works of Father Matthias Werners, the Catholic pastor of the Parish from 1918 to 1931. In Potosi, discover a number of exciting museums such as the National Brewery Museum, Potosi Brewery, and the Great River Road Museum of Contemporary Art.
Continue to Cassville where you will find Stonefield, which houses Wisconsin’s collection of farm tools, models, and machinery detailing the state’s agricultural past. Alternatively, take the Cassville Car Ferry over to Wisconsin.
Discover sculptures and historic buildings in Prairie du Chien. Visit the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, the second oldest permanently settled community in Wisconsin, and the Fort Crawford Museum, which stood guard from 1816 to 1856. Take a tour of the Villa Louis to follow the lives of the prosperous Dousman Family.
Finish your day in southern Wisconsin in Genoa. Explore the Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Some activities and visitor amenities include a 1,000 gallon aquarium of Mississippi River fishes in the sturgeon building, a wetland and native prairie boardwalk including an outdoor classroom area, a walking trail and map of the facility, and culture buildings housing 24 species of fish, freshwater mussels and amphibians. The station provides over 30 to 40 million fish, eggs and mussels of over 26 species to meet aquatic species and research objectives all across the country, from New Mexico to Georgia. Visit Lock and Dam #8 and the Clements Fishing Barge before seeking dining and lodging.
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