Traveling the Great River Road

Traveling the Great River Road

By Debra L. Karplus

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway is a long north-south highway along the Mississippi River that goes through 10 states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

To learn about this approximately 3,000-mile scenic road, search Be sure to pack a camera for this road trip.

There are several ways to travel the Illinois part of the Great River Road.

Take Interstate 72 from Champaign-Urbana west to Quincy, where you will start to see scenic, rolling hills, in addition to breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.

Then head south to visit other areas along the river. See the sites in Hannibal, Mo. (Mark Twain country), the St. Louis/Alton area and then head to the southern tip of Illinois, Cairo.

If you drive about 30 miles northeast a bit off the Great River Road to Metropolis, you can enjoy Fort Massarac State Park; The Super Museum (, an all-Superman museum; and Harrah's Casino for gaming, lodging and much more.

Illinois' northern part of the Great River Road will not disappoint.

The Warsaw area across the river from Keokuk, Iowa, is lovely.

Take a few photos of the monument at Fort Edwards for one of the finest views of the river while you are in Warsaw.

DJ's Bar and Grill in Warsaw is worth visiting. You'll find fantastic made-to-order meals at a very reasonable price.

Head north a bit, where you will see lily pads floating in the Mississippi just before arriving in Nauvoo and the Nauvoo State Park.

Be sure to visit some of the Mormon sites, as well as the stone bridge in Nauvoo. A bit north from Nauvoo is the Henderson County covered bridge. Get your camera out for that site.

Your next major stop heading north on the Mississippi River in Illinois includes the Quad Cities: Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, across the river from Bettendorf and Davenport, Iowa.

You can get to this area from Champaign-Urbana in about three hours driving Interstate 74 all the way.

There is much to do in this part of Illinois, including the Black Hawk Indian Museum and Historic Site in Rock Island. The Quad City Botanical Gardens are fabulous with a special section designed just for kids, but grown-ups can enjoy it as well.

At the uppermost part of Illinois along the river in the northwest corner of the state is Galena. Stop at one of the bed and breakfast spots after a day of antiquing.

Whether you head north or south along the Mississippi River through Illinois and possibly beyond to other states, you will enjoy much scenery, numerous state parks and a variety of shops, eateries and lodging in a variety of price ranges.

Definitely plan a road trip along the Great River Road in whatever season you enjoy driving.

Karplus is an occupational therapist and freelance writer living in Champaign.

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