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The Great River Road
Travels alongside the Mississippi
Facts about the River
  • At 2,552 miles, the Mississippi River is the longest river in North America and the third longest in the world, and begins at 1,475 feet above sea level. 
  • The Mississippi River drains approximately 40% of the continental United States-all or part of 31 states, and two Canadian provinces, with a total drainage area  of 1.25 million square miles.
  • The Mississippi releases 2.3 million cubic feet of water per second into the Gulf of Mexico and more than 400-million cubic yards of mud, sand and gravel each year. 
  • The Mississippi River provides transport for more than 472-million tons of cargo each year, including 46% of the grain exported from the United States. 
  • The Mississippi is a major flyway for migratory birds. It is used by up to 40% of North America's duck, goose, swan and eagle population. 
  • A system of 29 locks and dams control navigation on the Upper Mississippi between Minneapolis, Minnesota and St. Louis, Missouri. 

A general map of the river.
Facts about the River Road
  • A traveler can follow the Great River Road over 3,000 miles through the ten river states and the two Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. 
  • There are 87 federal parks and refuge areas; 1,100 significant National Historic Register sites; and more than 150 visitor centers and museums along the Great River Road 
  •  The longest over water bridge in the world is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge in New Orleans. It crosses 24 miles of open water. 
  •  All along the Mississippi, you are never more than 100 miles from a casino.
  • The Mississippi River Parkway Planning Commission (MRPC) was legislatively appointed in 1938, but the road was not begun until 1954.
  • The Levees of the lower Mississippi are longer, and higher than the Great Wall of China.
Visits to the River
Mississippi Links

    I have seen, crossed, traveled along, or been down the Mississippi River more times than I can recall. Even so, the excitement of the first crossing is there, every time I reacquaint myself with this amazing body of ever flowing and changing water. There is an old saying that you never bathe in the same river twice, referring to the fact that the water never stays still, and eventually leaves the river. By this definition, I have seen a number of different rivers, when coming to this part of the country. The water of the Mississippi, the flows down to become part of the Gulf of Mexico, which is in turn, part of the Atlantic. In the case of the Mississippi, however, it is more than the water which is always changing. The banks of this river are constantly moving, and shifting, as if it is a living thing. Before the river was dredged, dammed, and canaled (if that's a word), river towns could suddenly find themselves miles inland, or in other states on the other side of the river. Mark Twain joked that a black man could go to sleep a slave in a slave state, and the river could change course in the night having him wake up on the other side in a free state, and vice versa.
    My actual first crossing of the river is barely worth mentioning. It was during my first ever trip out west, back in 1970. I was 12 years old, and we crossed  on the Interstate, at the Twin Cities. The river here is large, but not what one would expect from such a remarked upon body of water. It seemed a bit like the Milwaukee River from back home. The crossing went nearly unnoticed, being taken over a metal trusswork bridge, over which we could scarcely make out more than a patch of blue and some sandy banks. We were on our way to Seattle, and took no note of the river, or of much of anything along the way. It was just as well, since this particular crossing does not do the great river justice. The Mississippi does not really become an impressive body of water until a bit farther down stream, where it joins with the St. Croix. It is eventually fed by the Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and Arkansas, all great rivers in themselves. It is also fed by numerous lesser rivers, streams and creeks.
    My second crossing is far more memorable. It was made on a motorcycle when I was nineteen years old. The crossing here
was taken at LaCrosse, and time was spent at the Dresbach center near LaCrescent in Minnesota. This was my first real acquaintance with the river, before this we had given each other only the briefest acknowledgment. This was on my first motorcycle trip out to Yellowstone Park, and though I was anxious to get to the mountains, prairies, wildlife, and scenic views of the West, as well as getting to feel a part of the history of the region, I had to stay and introduce myself to the river. That first stop lasted for a couple  of hours, even though the weather was not at it's best. I had a nice lunch, called home, sat by the side of the river, and walked for a while. I also spent some time watching the tow boats and barges. The picture here is the first one that I ever took on this spot. It is notable for the fact that the river is not actually visible in the shot (it was just to the right outside of the photo). This was my second time across the Mississippi, but my first at the crossing of Lacrosse. It was to be far from my last.
I have been back many times and plan to return many more. There are the river cities, and the little river towns, the celebrations, the scenic views, the wildlife, and the constant ebb, and flow of the river, and of the people who live on it, works it's length, visit, or are just passing through. The river area has a unique combination of hectic activity, and laid back lifestyles, that make the whole place a wonder.
    As of this time, I have only done about a fifth of the River Road. I do hope, in the summer of 2005, to do the entire road from the Twin Cities, to New Orleans, and perhaps a bit beyond to Venice, LA. or wherever the furthest road south goes.

The Twin Cities, and Points North

Start Here
Looking North

I have been here many times before, but this always becomes the jumping off point.
Winnona, Bay City, and other little towns, add their own style of charm to the Great River Road
Up the River Road
A trip through bluffs with the amazing Mississippi River at your elbow.
The Wisconsin Side
The Wisconsin side of the River Road, though less spectacular, has it's own charm, and is a bit less developed than the busier Minnesota side.
The Twin Cities

Minneapolis, and Saint Paul are filled with places to see and things to do, particularly during the Minnesota State Fair.

Prairie DuChien, Dubuque, and Points South


LaCrosse, the freeway, and the little park.
I love this place, and it really means the river to me.
The Wisconsin River Road
The Road Between LaCrosse, and Prairie DuChien
Prairie DuChien
This former Indian village is one of the oldest of the river towns, and a great place to visit.
McGregor, and Marquette,
Scenic Iowa, across from Prairie DuChien
The old car rally
Classic old cars from the early days of motor touring.
The Rendezvous
(Side Trip)
The Prairie DuChien Rendezvous. This already has it's own section, but I included it here anyway.
Pike's Peak State Park
Up on top of the bluffs. looking down across the river and the rest of the world.
Dubuque Iowa
A good sized city, built on the beautiful bluffs overlooking the River
A Bit of Illinois

Some of the Illinois countryside, including a part of the River Road

The Birthplace of U.S. Grant, and a pretty little town in it's own right.