Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road – MO
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2002)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- LocationAR, IL, IA, KY, LA, MN, MS, MO, TN, WI
- Length300 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
Missouri’s Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road shows visitors gorgeous evolving panoramas winding along the Mississippi River. The byway offers scenic overlooks of limestone bluffs in the National Register Districts of Clarksville and Louisiana — towns that house wonderful enclaves of artists and antique shopping. At the Louisiana Cemetery byway-goers can find a panoramic view of the river and of the spectacular deep green Mississippi Valley. At 850 feet above sea level, the Pinnacle, is the highest point on the Mississippi River.
Linking Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal to the smaller cities of Louisiana, Missouri’s Highway 79 runs parallel to the mighty Mississippi River. All three communities were once riverboat boomtowns; their Italianate and Victorian architecture a tribute to their wealthy settlers. Like many boomtowns, the wealth provided by the riverboats and railroads went away and many of the old mansions and businesses were abandoned. But yesteryear is being revived. Route 79 offers a scenic drive with a tourist’s eye view of Old Man River, rolling hills, limestone bluffs, and soaring eagles. The byway has bolstered Clarksville, Louisiana, and Hannibal in recent years as artsy must-sees for passersby. Named “Fifty Miles of Art,” the road acts as an artwork, crafts, and galleries corridor, offering many opportunities to artists and photographers alike to capture magnificent panoramic views on canvas or film. The once abandoned buildings, particularly in Louisiana, are being preserved and renovated. Each of the three communities has events and arts festivals planned throughout the year: from Hannibal’s River Arts Festival, to Louisiana’s Great Mansions and Estates Tour, to Clarksville’s Lock and Dam 24 Bald Eagles Winter Migration, to the Fifty Miles of Art Tour. Missouri’s Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road presents an eclectic display of arts and culture that preserve the lifestyle along this historic stretch of the Mississippi River for everyone to enjoy.
From Hannibal, MO to the smaller cities of Louisiana and Clarksville, Missouri’s Highway 79 runs parallel to the Mississippi River. The byway is just 30 miles and while it takes about one hour to drive straight through, plan for six hours to enjoy the full features that this area has to offer.
Points of Interest
Riverfront quaint town along the byway know for historical accurate restoration efforts and bald eagle viewing sites.
Home to the Louisiana Area Historical Museum and the Georgia Street Historic District, the most intact Victorian streetscape in the state of Missouri.
Ted Shanks Conservation Area
Located along the Mississippi River, at the community of Ashburn, the 6,705-acre Ted Shanks Conservation Area offers unique opportunities for wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting.
Mark Twain’s boyhood home and famously known as the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
An Artsy Trip Along the Mississippi
Starting from Clarksville, heading northwest on Little Dixie Highway, enjoy a 30-mile drive through wonderful scenery with fun artsy and historic stops along the way. The Clarksville Historic District and riverside park offer a wonderful combination of historically restored buildings alongside the beautiful scenic river. Continuing north from Clarksville along Missouri Highway 79, the byway will come to Lock and Dam #24, Silo Park, and the Clarksville Refuge, all of which offer superb bald eagle watching opportunities and impressive views of the Mississippi River. Follow Highway 79 north and stop in the town of Louisiana which houses the Louisiana Area Historical Museum and the Georgia Street Historic District, the most intact Victorian streetscape in the state of Missouri. Following Highway 79 north then east on Route TT, you will encounter the breathtaking Ted Shanks Conservation Area, 6,705-acres of pristine wetlands and unique opportunities for wildlife viewing. Back on Highway 79, continue north to land in the artsy town of Hannibal, Mark Twain’s boyhood home and famously known as the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
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