Friday, December 8, 2023


One of America’s best road trips: Drive the beautiful Great River Road

Three thousand miles. Ten states. Amazing cultures and rich history. That’s saying quite a lot. And yet an RV trip along the Great River Road is all that and so much more!

So much to see and do

You may choose to start your adventure at the headwaters in Minnesota’s Lake Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River begins. Or perhaps you’ll decide to begin at the end in New Orleans and work your way upstream. If you can’t find the time to travel the entire 3,000 miles all in one trip, even a short excursion will inspire you. You’ll learn about riverboats, early explorers, and how the Mississippi River still continues to impact our nation today.

The Mississippi Queen boat
Photo credit:

Old Man River

As a child, growing up in Iowa (the heart of “flyover country”), the Mississippi River enthralled me. A family day trip to see the Mighty Mississippi vividly remains in my mind. Now living near St. Louis, I frequently see “Old Man River” and get excited about taking an extended trip all along his famous shores.

Photo credit:

Trip planner

You can probably imagine my excitement when I discovered the Great River Road travel itineraries on this site. What I appreciate about the information presented by the folks at The Great River Road is that they provide sample itineraries. Short on time? They have a 14-day “speed trip” planner. Love music? Take a musical tour along the river. Are you a foodie? Don’t miss the iconic restaurants found along the River Road. Like birding? Golf? Wineries? The Great River Road has it all!

Need an excuse?

Guess what? September is “Drive the Great River Road Month.” Need I say more? Maybe I’ll see you somewhere along the way.

Other Midwest adventures


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Neal Davis (@guest_257977)
1 month ago

Thank you, Gail! Apparently we are NOT going to Alaska next summer (parents’ health concerns). 🙁 So, perhaps a trip the length of the Mississippi River may be a nice alternate trip. I’ll see what DW has to say. Either way, thank you for the tip. 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by Neal Davis
Mikal H (@guest_257886)
1 month ago

As I write this I am looking out over the Mississippi from my picture window, the fall colors of the hills and valleys ablaze with yellows, oranges, and reds. Grew up on its banks fishing its waters, hunting its backwaters, and tent camping on its islands. My father was a pilot on the river for the Army Corp of Engineers, so the river has always been a large part of my life.

My fondest memories include the visits of the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen slowly blowing their sad sounding steam whistles or playing the wonderful steam calliope as they passed my small hometown. Sadly, their modern counterparts no longer do that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mikal H
James (@guest_257866)
1 month ago

I just got back from a Mississippi River cruise, Minnesota to New Orleans. We got off the boat along the way just about every day. As I love to ride motorcycles and drive my motorhome, I thought that this would be a great route. Glad to see an article regarding this road that I was on last month! Looking for the land trip along the river. The river cruise was marvelous!

Cancelproof (@guest_257865)
1 month ago

Our great adventure next year involves our friends that are doing the loop on a boat. Tampa, around the tip and up the east coast to the Saint Lawrence Seaway and then back down the great river, sometimes adjacent to the Miss, working down through NOLA, then across the gulf back to Tampa. We plan on meeting them in Quebec and traveling with them for a month or so in and out of our coach. It’s a tricky one to put together but I think it will be well worth the effort. Coach goes 65, boat does 17 knots. It will involve an UBER or 10 and maybe a one way car rental or 6.

Stuart L Chapman (@guest_257862)
1 month ago

We are just finishing up our trip on the Great River Road. One of the best trips we have ever had. In Natchez, Mississippi and will be in New Orleans in a week and a half.

Bob P (@guest_257851)
1 month ago

I thought when the article began we were going to get the grand tour, oh well guess I’ll have to drive it myself. Lol

Jim Johnson (@guest_257847)
1 month ago

Gail, you are going to get lots of comments on this topic. GRR (and Great Lakes Circle Tours) are great road trips. I worked in downtown Mpls for decade, crossed the river 2X daily and lived on a tributary to the north. We now summer on Lake Superior and winter in Texas Hill Country. So at a minimum ride along and cross the Mississippi 2X a year. Crossed TN <> AR, been to NOLA. Always majestic & beautiful. Hint: visit the Natl Eagle Ctr in Wabasha, MN.

Gary Broughton (@guest_257829)
1 month ago

Over several years we’ve traveled the Great River Road and all the adjoining areas. Walked across the river in Minnesota and down into the delta.
Lots of water and vehicles traveling the river.

Donna Brasfield (@guest_197874)
1 year ago

I literally grew up on the Mighty Mississippi, on a farm on Chouteau Island near St. Louis. Old Rte 66 bordered our property. I was thrilled when we visited Lake Itaska State Park about ten years ago and I was able to wade in the headwaters. I’ve since visited many locations along the River, including in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Pat Brown (@guest_197113)
1 year ago

Back in the early 60’s, my Dad was transferred from Michigan to Muscatine, IA on the Mississippi River when I was 6 years old. We lived in a house with a big picture window overlooking the Mississippi River (and the train tracks) for 4 years. I loved watching the barges work their way up and down The River. It was a big deal when the Delta Queen came into town and I’d wait to see it from that picture window. In the winter the River would sometimes dam up with ice, one year flooding the town. Before we had air conditioning, I would listen to the trains before going to sleep and waking up to them again in the morning. Dad would drive Mom and me to Wild Cat Den State Park on a Sunday afternoon where we would enjoy a bologna sandwich. Little did I know at that young age what memories living on the Great River Road would afford me.

RV Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Brown

Wow! What great memories, Pat. Thank you for sharing. Have a good evening/night. 😀 –Diane

Matt (@guest_196935)
1 year ago

Can you enjoy this beautiful route in a 40+ Class A motorhome with toad?

Don (@guest_196975)
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt

Yes. A few of the lock and dam roads are gravel. The road is 2 and sometimes 4 lane. It is a fantastic trip especially in the Fall.

KellyR (@guest_196921)
1 year ago

A couple years back we stuck as close to the Mississippi as possible, watching the boats on the river – Florida to Illinois and where the Ohio and Illinois rivers join the Mississippi. We took small roads out to each of the locks n dams to watch the tow boats and barges go thru the locks, and out to elevators that were loading grain on the the barges. Tow boats and barges totally fascinate me. Watching several acres of barges navigate the river is music to my eyes. The amount of goods moved on the Mississippi, and Ohio, and Illinois is mind boggling. Google Youtube barges on the Mississippi and be amazed.

Spike (@guest_196890)
1 year ago

I grew up and still live along the Mississippi near the area where Grumpy Old Men was set. Much of my early camping was done on the sandbars on the islands. Just pull up to one in your boat and set up camp, no charge!

Pat (@guest_196814)
1 year ago

“Missouri and the Mississippi have made a deeper impression on me than any part of the world. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not.” T. S. Eliot

Growing up in Hannibal, Missouri and spending the first 18 years of my life with daily access to recreation on the Mississippi was like living in a fairy tale. I’ve been to Lake Itasca and I’ve been to New Orleans – now I have the opportunity to explore the many miles in between.

Jim&Sandy Farnsworth (@guest_196742)
1 year ago

I’m lucky to live just a quarter mile from the GRR and to get paid to make the trip between Prairie du Chien and Lacrosse, WI several times a week. That 60 some miles has to be the most scenic of the whole GRR. Green hills and bluffs of up to 600 feet make sure the road and rails don’t move to far from The River. Stay alert for wildlife as The River is a corridor that attracts every endemic species plus spring and fall migrants high lighted by nesting bald eagles, migrant tundra swans, resident sand hill cranes and pelicans. It’s a great part of the USA,

@BigDogRV (@guest_196787)
1 year ago

We just stayed at the Blakhawk COE campground along that stretch last week for the first time and were amazed at the beauty of the area! We drove down to Prairie du Chien several times and crossed over to Iowa to see the Effigy Mounds. We saw more bald eagles than we could count, along with many deer and pelicans. We watched barges on the river. We have been raving about the unexpected beauty of the area since, even making a post about it on our Instagram page.

Tom Hosack (@guest_197157)
1 year ago
Reply to  @BigDogRV

You forgot to mention the trains at Blackhawk CG.

@BigDogRV (@guest_197528)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Hosack

We were surprised by the number of trains. Thankfully we live in a fairly well insulated motorhome so they didn’t bother us at night. Between the trains and the river barges there was a lot of freight moving, which was great to see.

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