Great River Road 00 - Following the Mississippi River Top to Bottom

So, you guys going to Florida when you leave? Nope! Minnesota!

As we wrapped up our time in Michigan this year people naturally started asking us where we were going next. The assumption is that if you are a fulltime RVer from Michigan when the weather starts to dip below 60 degrees you leave headed for Florida. It’s almost not even “where are you going” but rather “which part of Florida do you go to?”

We spent time in Florida last year which already violated our desire to not repeat experiences - we had spent time in Florida two winters back as well. Clearly a 3rd winter in Florida was out.

We’re going to Minnesota to drive the Great River Road which follows the Mississipi River from top to bottom.

Fascination with the River

Initially I just wanted to follow the Mississippi River - ever since reading Tom Sawyer as a boy I’ve had a fascination with it. The river is such a cultural touchstone in the US - being the basis for books, plays, movies, and songs. It’s used to divide the country - we talk about things being “West of the Mississippi” or “East of the Mississippi”.

Longer-term readers of this site will remember that after we sold our suburban house we used some of the profits to fullfill a bucket-list item to rent a Houseboat on the Mississippi. That experience was memorable but still didn’t get us to some of the classic cities on the Mississippi.

We’ve not yet visited Hannibal, St. Louis, or Memphis. We are big fans of blues music but haven’t explored the Mississippi Delta area.

Following the river would give us a way to tie all of these experiences together.

The Great River Road?

In researching I discovered the Great River Road - which is an established route from the headwaters of the Mississippi to where it enters the Gulf.

Politics + Marketing ==?

That sounded great, but from there..well, when politics and government entities get into marketing confusion is sure to ensue.

In addition to the organization I linked to above each of the 10 states the Mississippi River passes through has their own marketing efforts around the Great River Road. Gathering information about the route was confusing and time consuming.

I couldn’t scare up any bloggers that had driven the road and recorded their impressions of it.

Existing Roads

From what I can tell the goal was to create a “parkway” experience like the Natchez Trace or Blue Ridge Parkway - but we’re talking 2400+ miles through 10 states. The budget would never be there for that - so the next best idea was to build a route using existing roads, improve them where possible, and call that the Great River Road.

Additional Confusion

Sections of the Great River Road are labelled as a “National Route”, other sections are also a “Scenic Byway”. There are routes on both sides of the river. There is also the Mississippi River Trail which is designed mainly for bikers but parallels the Great River Road for long stretches.

Reports are that some states do a better job marking the road than others.

Our Constraints

We’ll be pulling a 34’ fifth wheel. We’re still working and schooling. We’ll have people to visit in different areas along the way.

It’s also late in season and the northern states will be shutting their campgrounds down for the winter.

We are also not on vacation and can’t afford to purchase admission to every last museum and exhibit we pass.

Our Goals

Based on the potential confusion and our constraints our goal is to follow the Mississippi all the way from top to bottom -  driving as much of the Great River Road as we can while not being dogmatic about it.  If it makes sense to jump on an Interstate and crank out some miles we’ll do so.

We’ll focus on what we can do for free and then purchase admission to targeted attractions along the way.

Follow Along!

We’ll be blogging the drive here as well as posting updates to our Instagram Account.

Have You?

Have you driven the Great River Road? Any can’t-miss things along the way?

6 Comments Great River Road 00 - Following the Mississippi River Top to Bottom

  1. Picture of Amber Hobson Amber Hobson October 11, 2015

    If you need ideas for what to do or where to eat in Memphis give me a shout!

  2. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink October 11, 2015

    Thanks Amber!

    We’ll probably skip Graceland - but might at least walk past Sun Studios.

  3. Picture of Eric Eric October 12, 2015

    Hope you are reading Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.


  4. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink October 12, 2015

    I have read it - and I know we started listening to the audio version of it while driving in the past, but good reminder to give it a go again.

  5. Picture of Amber Hobson Amber Hobson October 12, 2015

    I’m not huge into music, but I enjoyed the tour of Sun Studios immensely.  Definitely worth at least getting a picture out front.  If the three of you are interested in touring St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital I would be more than happy to give you a tour. I know a tour of a hospital sounds weird…but after working here for 7 years I’m still amazed (and its steeped in rich history). 

    Discussion of the best BBQ could start a war, but I would skip Rendezvous.  Personal favorites are Cozy Corner for BBQ bologna, Corky’s for BBQ Nachos and Ribs,  Germantown Commissary, and Memphis BBQ (which is just across the state line in MS).  There are loads of other great places too.

  6. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink October 12, 2015

    We’d love that!  I’ll send a note offline to connect.

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