A drive down the Great River Road — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dave Herholz
The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, flowing thousands of miles, and it’s one of the United States’ most important waterways. Follow this winding river from Minnesota all the way down to Louisiana, on the famous Great River Road. This 3,000-mile National Scenic Byway roughly tracks the Mississippi River, and is easily one of the nation’s best road trips.
While driving, you’ll notice white signs with a green wheel on them, marking the route. The straight drive takes about 36 hours, so with the stops, plan about a week, if not more, for the whole trip.
Here are just 10, of many, stops to see along the Great River Road–in the 10 different states that it passes through.
Fort Snelling in Mississippi — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Doug Kerr
Visit Historic Fort Snelling, a landmark in St. Paul, Minnesota, built in the 1820s as the farthest outpost for military. Today, you can take a 90-minute tour of the building, complete with demonstrations and activities that teach you about military history, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and more.
The Nelson Dewey State Park is where history meets nature — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Enjoy a breathtaking panoramic, bird’s-eye view of the Mississippi River from the Nelson Dewey State Park’s 500-foot bluff. The park is a great place to stop and camp, go hiking or have a picnic above the river. Add some education to your outdoors adventure at the nearby Stonefield Historic site.
The Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire, Iowa, is a family-friendly place to stop to learn about the legend of Buffalo Bill, and the Mississippi River. At the museum, see the first licensed riverboat pilot on the river, a 1939 Chris Craft Speed Boat.
The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Paul Sableman
The historic Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of the most unusual bridges in the country. This bridge, stretching above the Mississippi River, was named after a 17-mile series of rapids and rocks under water that made this part of the river dangerous for boaters. It's known for its surprising sharp bend in the middle.
The Trail of Tears State Park — Photo courtesy of Flickr user steve9567
The Trail of Tears State Park is a heart-wrenching but historically important place to visit. At this park in 1838, nine Cherokee Indian groups were relocated, and had to cross the river during extreme weather conditions. Today, visitors can remember their struggles, as well as go hiking, horseback riding, fishing and bird-watching in the park.
See the remnants of an ancient Native American village at the Wickliffe Mounds. This archaeological site, from about the years 1100 to 1350, features a large ceremonial mound. See ancient pottery, tools, artifacts and other educational displays and exhibits in the museum. Stretch your legs on the trail.
The Mississippi River Museum in Tennessee is an excellent place to stop and immerse yourself in the river’s history and importance. This impressive museum features 18 different galleries and presents more than 5,000 artifacts. See a riverboat steam engine and paddle wheel in the River Room. Climb aboard two boat replicas, and watch fish in a 4,000-gallon aquarium.
The Lakeport Plantation — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jeff Noble
The dramatic Lakeport Plantation home in Arkansas is the only remaining Arkansas antebellum plantation house on the river. Today, visitors can tour the restored structure, built in 1859. It is part of the National Register of Historic Places and was transformed into a history museum.
The Delta Blues Museum — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Visit Mississippi
The Delta region and city of Clarksdale, in Mississippi, are considered the “land where the blues began.” The Delta Blues Museum preserves that legacy. It’s the state’s oldest music museum. The newest exhibit, “Blue Portraits in Steel,” brings the blues into sculpture forms.
End your road trip in Louisiana, at the Historic New Orleans Collection. This longstanding museum aims to preserve New Orleans’ unique culture. Here, you can see more than a million different artifacts that teach about a three-century history. Visitors can browse four different galleries with ever-changing exhibits.