The Great River Road - TN, AR, KY, MO, IL
I am working on the Little Rock to St. Louis leg of our late spring road trip and a lot of you have mentioned the Great River Road along the Mississippi River. I have searched on here, on Google, and elsewhere, but I can't seem to find a straight answer as to what roads actually make up the Great River Road. I'm trying to plan ahead by plugging everything into DeLorme Street Atlas USA, so I need the route names or numbers.
So tell me, what roads/routes should we take between Little Rock and St. Louis to stay on the Great River road? Are there any sections we should skip? What are the best sections?
Great River Roads
The Great River Road is actually a collection of roads on both banks of the Mississippi. There is no one Great River Road. The relevant sections are:
As to which is the "best" that is, of course, a personal call, but with a knowledge of what the roads are, you should be able to find out what's along the way. My only experience with this section is south out of St. Louis on the west bank. I particularly enjoyed Mastadon State Park just south of St. Louis and walking the town and river bank at Ste. Genevieve, which also, as I recall, has a nice little museum on river life. (I think I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm interested in geology and history.) I'll be doing some of the Tennessee, Missouri bootheel, and Arkansas sections this July.
The main point to the Great River Road is to get off the interstates so as to actually see a natural feature up close, and to experience a unique area and lifestyle. Sort of like the point of most road trips. I don't think you can go too far wrong.
Last edited by AZBuck; 04-19-2005 at 09:25 PM.
Great River Road - Recommended Reading & Safety
I'm also planning a trip down the Great River Road, travelling down from St Louis, diverting off to Nashville and then rejoining the GRR at Memphis to take it all the way down to New orleans. Being based in the UK, I am dependent upon the Internet and books for my research and can highly recommend "Road Trip USA" by Jamie Jensen - it has detailed directions and routes for the GRR and from cross referencing it to other guides it seems very accurate.
One question that I have if anyone can help is that the UK guide books all seem in agreement at recommending that the Mississippi Delta area is rather unsafe for travellers - and specifically advises against camping - does anyone have any advice/experiences from this route? We'll have a Californian plated car for the trip.
Any advice very gratefully received.
One bit of advice -- we really like Jamie's books too, but those books have not been updated in years and so their accuracy today is somewhat sketchy.
Originally Posted by Lorna Ashton
There is, however, a really good book that follows much of the River Road in Mississippi. Tim Steil's Highway 61 Revisited is a classic -- it's larger than you might want for a road guide, but it certainly provides a perspective you are unlikely to find in most guide books.
Camping and traveling in the delta is not dangerous in any way. It is helpful to employ some common sense, but I have traveled just about all of the River Road and never felt uncomfortable. Same response with respect to the camping.
Enjoy your adventure!
Re Road Trip Travel
Thanks for the info, will have a look at Jim's book. You are right that Jamies book is a little out of date - 2002 last updated, but I'm finding that the actual route details are still relevant albeit accomodation and prices are of no use. I'm pleased re your views of camping, we are planning a major trip across the States doing elements of the California Coast Road, Route 66, US50 and now the GRR and part of budgeting for this requires us to camp for the majority of routes.
So it looks like from Memphis to St Louis we should try to take US-61 most of the way. Is the Great River Road signed as such so that it is easy to follow? On my mapping software, US-61 seems to be swallowed by I-55 for much of the way, but there are some stretches that they run separately, with US-61 to the east of I-55.
According to the links/maps that you posted, Bob, the GRR seems to divert to the east or northeast from New Madrid, MO towards Cape Girardeau, MO then on to Ste Genevieve, MO and St. Louis. Do you know what roads make up that leg of the scenic byway?
Last edited by Boston Wrangler; 04-21-2005 at 07:50 PM.
It is trickier than you might expect!
The Great River Road is a 3,000 mile network of federal, state, and local roads on both sides of the Mississippi River, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Most, if not all, of the legs are marked with a special road sign that looks like a ship's wheel. However, it can be very tricky following the route. It was originally envisioned to be part of a "super" highway connecting Chile with Canada.
But rather than build a dedicated highway, a decision was made in the 1950's to simply to signpost some of the existing roads that generally followed the Mississippi River, which makes it a bit challenging to follow.
So, I think the only guide you are going to find, is a good pair of eyes...
Just curious -- is the Great River Road the same road as the Blues Highway? I thought I remembered reading a few years ago about a North/South highway that ran through New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis, etc., that was a great route if you'd like to visit historic sites related to blues/jazz music. If it isn't the same road, does anyone have any information on the Blues Highway?
It's not really a physical place
The Blues Highway is more metamorphical than anything -- but many folks do consider US-61 and US-49 as part and parcel of this mystical route. Here is a map of the region and here is a road log of one such journey on the Blues Highway.
Thank you so much for the info and the links -- I enjoyed the photos as well as the great travel writing. I really enjoyed reading about the writer's ventures along the Blues Highway. Somehow, it seems far more intriguing now that I know that traveling the Blues Highway is more of a metaphysical than physical journey. Well, 'guess I have another future trip I need to plan.