Visitors Guide to the Middle Mississippi River Valley
  The Great River Road is one of America’s national treasures. greatriverroad.com's  coverage extends from the Keokuk, Iowa and Nauvoo, Illinois region to the areas in Missouri and western Kentucky south of where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi River in the south. greatriverroad.com brings our readers information on both the sides of the river from Illinois and western Kentucky on the eastern bank and Iowa and Missouri on the western bank. Our coverage is divided into geographical regions that and brings you information on what to see and do, in-depth coverage of annual events, and where to shop, stay, and eat. We cover the history of real river towns and interesting facts to enhance your visit. Each region offers it visitors a different aspect of life along the Mississippi River whether its small town life, the big city atmosphere of the St. Louis metropolitan area, or the beginning of the Southern way of life. greatriverroad.com invites you to explore our pages and then to explore all the many regions and cultures of the Middle Mississippi River Valley.
greatriverroad.com covers the following regions of the Middle Mississippi River Valley

 
A- Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway
     
Illinois counties of Calhoun, Jersey, and Madison
B- French Colonial Country
     
Illinois counties of St. Clair, Monroe, and Randolph
      Missouri counties of Ste. Genevieve and Jefferson
C- Gateway to the West
 
     St. Louis and St. Louis County, Missouri 
D- Meeting the Missouri River
     
St. Charles County, Missouri
E- Missouri's Lincoln Hills
     
Missouri counties of Lincoln, Pike, Ralls, and Marion
F- The Tri-State Area
      Lee County, Iowa
      Illinois counties of Hancock, Adams, and Pike
      Missouri counties of Lewis and Clark
G- Meeting the Ohio River
      Missouri counties of Perry, Cape Girardeau, Scott, and Mississippi
      Illinois counties of Jackson, Union, and Alexander
      Kentucky counties of Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton, and Hickman
H- The Upper Delta Region
      Missouri counties of New Madrid, Pemiscot, and Dunklin
      Arkansas counties of Clay, Greene, Craighead, Poinsett, Cross, Mississippi, and Crittenden
      Tennessee counties of Lake, Obion, Dyer, Lauderdale, and Tipton

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SPOTLIGHT ON CULTURE
 
Misselhorn Art Gallery
Sparta, Illinois

Located in the old GM&O train depot, this art gallery features the work of renowned Southern Illinois sketch artist Roscoe Misselhorn (1902-1997,) who has been called the Norman Rockwell of the Midwest. The museum also features a permanent exhibit of movie-making memorabilia related to the 1967 Oscar-winning Best Picture film “In the Heat of the Night,” as Sparta was one of the locations used for the film.
 
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HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHT

Lewis & Clark Boathouse & Nature Center
Saint Charles, Missouri

William Clark and the Corps of Discovery arrived in Saint Charles on May 14, 1804. Meriwether Lewis was still in St. Louis attending to last minute details. Lewis arrived in Saint Charles on May 20 and the Corps departed the next day. This departure marked the point where the Corps had its full complement of men and leaders. This was also the last time that they saw a significant European settlement until they returned on September 20, 1804, two days before their journey ended when they reached St. Louis. The Discovery Expedition of Saint Charles has put together a museum and operates this certified site of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. The lower level of the Boat House is home to full size replicas of a keelboat and two pirogues. The upper level features a museum, classrooms, and a gift shop.

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MEETING OF THE GREAT RIVERS SCENIC BYWAY AREA
The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area is where greatriverroad.com began. We started covering the region in early 2001, have been expanding our coverage ever since, and this area remains our flagship. The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area is where the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers meet. Here you'll find magnificent limestone bluffs, forested parks and wildlife areas, real river towns, ferries that ply the rivers, brilliant fall colors, wintering bald eagles, and friendly and gracious people. Two jewels anchor the byway: Pere Marquette State Park (photo right) in the north and the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in the south. The Vadalabene Bike Trail parallels the Great River Road beneath towering limestone bluffs between Alton and the Pere Marquette. These are just some of the treasures awaiting visitors to this region. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes the Illinois counties of Madison, Jersey and Calhoun.  

FRENCH COLONIAL COUNTRY
The region along the Mississippi River south of St. Louis is French Colonial Country having been claimed by France after an expedition led by Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette. The area is the oldest region settled by Europeans west of the Appalachian Mountains with the founding of Cahokia in 1699, the same year as Williamsburg, the colonial capitol of Virginia, and predating New Orleans by nearly 20 years. Although English is the common language spoken in the region today, the French heritage is not forgotten. Ste. Genevieve (photo right) has more than 150 pre-1825 structures and the region has the largest concentration of French Colonial architecture in the North America. Fort de Chartres, a rebuilt 18th century French Fort, is the Mississippi Valley’s premier site for French Colonial reenactments. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes Randolph, Monroe, and St. Clair counties in Illinois and Ste. Genevieve and Jefferson Counties, Missouri.

GATEWAY TO THE WEST
The St. Louis metropolitan area is one of the few truly cosmopolitan destinations along the Great River Road and has a lot to offer its visitors. The area's most prominent attraction is the Gateway Arch, the jewel of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. St. Louis has a number of outstanding public institutions that are free to visit: the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum, and the Science Center. St. Louis is home to a vibrant art scene with new and revitalized institutions, along with world-class architecture and public sculpture. The region has a number of green spaces for nature and outdoor enthusiasts including Forest Park is, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. greatriverroad.com lists over 80 attractions and invites you to explore the St. Louis area
. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes St. Louis and St. Louis County, Missouri.

MEETING THE MISSOURI RIVER
The two longest rivers of the United States, the Missouri and the Mississippi, meet at the eastern tip of St. Charles County, Missouri. The city of St. Charles is the county seat and is situated a short drive northwest of St. Louis and traces its history to the late 18th century. American settlers began settling the area shortly before the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 and the city served as the first state Capitol in Missouri. The beautifully preserved historic districts of downtown Main Street and nearby Frenchtown are a shopper’s paradise with over 100 specialty shops, antique stores, and restaurants. The keelboat (photo right) of the Lewis & Clark Boat House is housed in a certified Lewis & Clark site that sits on the banks of the Missouri River where the explorers left the last outpost of European civilization in 1804. The Foundry Art Centre is a wonderful new facility with four galleries for exhibits and studios where visitors can talk with the artists as they work. The wide variety of special events that occur throughout the year make St. Charles an interesting stop along the Great River Road or as a destination in itself. A short drive down Highway 94 from St. Charles is Augusta, situated in the wine country of the Missouri River bluffs. Visitors will find a number of wineries, shops, and B&B's in this area. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes St. Charles County, Missouri.

MISSOURI'S LINCOLN HILLS
Missouri's Lincoln Hills is geological formation that spans four counties north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River. The region is so similar to that of southern Missouri that the region is often called the Northern Ozarks. Located in the northern most county of the area is Hannibal, which conjures up images of the steamboat era of the mid-19th century. The town has become virtually synonymous with Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn. Hannibal is host to a large number of museums, historic houses, river related attractions, shops, and events that make it a top destination of visitors. South of Hannibal and stretching for 30 miles along the Great River Road is one of America’s newest Scenic Byways: The Little Dixie Scenic Byway. The Byway travels atop limestone bluffs and offers stunning views of the mighty Mississippi River. The real river towns of Clarksville and Louisiana are main attractions along the route as are the bald eagles (photo right) that flock to Lock and Dam #24 in the winter. A burgeoning community of talented artists is springing up in the region, many who have shops in the downtown districts. At the foot of the Lincoln Hills in Lincoln County is Cuivre River State Park, one of Missouri's largest and most rugged. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes Lincoln, Pike, Ralls, and Marion counties in Missouri.

THE TRI-STATE AREA
The northern most region that greatriverroad.com covers is a collection of six counties in the area where the borders of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri meet. The cities of Keokuk, Fort Madison, and Quincy have all made significant efforts to make a visit to their community an enjoyable experience. The town of Nauvoo, known for its place in the history of the Mormon’s Great Trek to Utah, is the most comprehensive restoration project in the Middle Mississippi River Valley. It’s entirely possible to spend a full day exploring Nauvoo. There are plenty of museums, cultural institutions, and events to keep a visitor to the region occupied. Nature lovers will find plenty of state parks and conservation areas. One of the most scenic sections of the Great River Road is IL-96 south of Nauvoo  where the tree-lined road is just yards from the river and is very beautiful in the fall and where bald eagles can be seen in the winter. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes Lee County, Iowa, Lewis and Clark Counties in Missouri, and Hancock, Adams, and Pike Counties in Illinois.

MEETING THE OHIO RIVER
After the Mississippi River passes St. Louis it begins to change character. When the Mississippi River meets the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois it is halfway on its journey to the sea. It is here that the brown muddy water of the Mississippi begins to mingle with the clearer water of the Ohio. Without the locks and dams the Mississippi begins to wind and curve so much so that the distance by water from Cape Girardeau to the Gulf of Mexico is twice the distance as a crow flies. The region where the Mississippi River meets the Ohio River is an area of transition in several respects both in terms of the flora and fauna but the culture begins to take on that of the Deep South. The Meeting the Ohio region of the Middle Mississippi River Valley offers it visitors a wide variety of options of activities to do and sites to see. Whether you’re looking for historical or cultural sites or a place to enjoy nature you’ll find it in this part of the country.
Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes Perry, Cape Girardeau, Scott, and Mississippi Counties in Missouri, Jackson, Union, and Alexander Counties in Illinois, and Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, and Fulton Counties in western Kentucky.

THE UPPER DELTA REGION
The Upper Delta Region of the Middle Mississippi River Valley is where the river really meets the south. The area is the Upper Delta in terms of culture as geologically it is part of the Mississippi River Embayment. The area includes the Bootheel region of Missouri, the scene of the famous 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes. In northeast Arkansas greatriverroad.com departs from its normal rule of only covering counties that border the river by adding coverage of the Crowley’s Ridge Scenic Byway with its Ozark like terrain and many state parks and attractions. There are a large variety of attractions in western Tennessee including Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee’s largest natural lake and the home of a large population bald eagles during the winter and is also a birder and fisherman’s paradise. Click here to learn more about our coverage that includes New Madrid, Pemiscot, and Dunklin counties in Missouri, and Mississippi, Crittenden, Clay, Greene, Craighead, Poinsett, and Cross counties in Arkansas, and Lake, Obion, Dyer, Lauderdale, and Tipton counties in Tennessee..

SPECIALTY DIRECTORIES
While researching the region we at greatriverroad.com have found that some topics encompass more than one region and that the amount of information we gathered warrants a special section. The Middle Mississippi River Valley has a vibrant art community with a number of museums, galleries, public spaces, and events. Lewis and Clark made a number of stops as the journeyed up the Mississippi and prepared for their voyage west. Bald eagles from the Great Lakes flock the region during the winter with two towns making the claim "the eagle viewing capitol of the United States." The region’s woodlands come alive with color in the fall, ferries offer a unique way to cross the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, and antique hunters will find treasures in the many towns along the Great River Road.

FEATURED ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE GREAT RIVER ROAD
Historic
Elsah, Illinois
Fort de Chartres
State Historic Site
U.S. Grant
National Historic Site
Mississippi
River Ferries
     
 
  Regional Guides
to the Middle Mississippi River Valley
 
       
  Meeting of the Great Rivers
National Scenic Byway
Ste. Genevieve &
French Colonial Country
Gateway to the West
St. Louis & St. Louis County
        
 
   Meeting the Missouri
Historic St. Charles County
The Lincoln Hills Region
Northeast Missouri
   
 
  The Tri-States Area
Iowa, Illinois & Missouri
The Mississippi River
Meets the Ohio River
   
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