St. Cloud, Minn. (August 2020): Nowhere along its 2,500+ mile course – from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico – does the Mississippi River provide such diverse scenic themes as it does in Minnesota. Minnesota’s Great River Road is the designated travel route to reach them all.
Eight geographic and geologic river reaches characterize the Mississippi River in Minnesota, and each has its own mystique. A drive on any of the eight is revealing, but a journey along all eight gives the traveler insight into the great river’s source… before it plunges southward.
Lake Itasca is a quintessential bucket list destination. Ancient pines and pristine lakes dominate the headwaters area, where the river meanders lazily. Large lakes and reservoirs provide supreme views and recreational opportunities. The Mississippi is a prairie river by the time it gets to Brainerd. St. Anthony Falls, the river’s only major waterfall, marks the Twin Cities’ reach where it played the centrifugal force in drawing Native peoples, European explorers and American industrialists all of whom left their mark on the landscape and the economy. It also offers the Mississippi’s scenic gorge. At the confluence of the Mississippi and the Minnesota, two of the state’s great rivers, the Mississippi becomes the mighty river of classic lore. And the Minnesota Mississippi River journey is completed in the scenic Bluffs and Driftless Area, where Locks and Dams 3 through 8 lie and are listed on the National Register.
Along the Great River Road, you’ll find urban centers, college towns, working river ports and iconic mill towns, a colorful collection of Minnesota communities. The Mississippi River travels through 43 towns, 20 counties and three tribes as it makes its way to the Iowa border. These communities offer a change of pace, history, and opportunities to get on or beside the river.
September is Drive the Great River Road Month. More important, it’s one of Minnesota’s prettiest months, when the dimming light of summer shows off the colors of the landscape. And, the car – or the bike or canoe – can be your safe passage to the vistas. For more information and a map: www.mnmississippiriver.com.
About the Minnesota Mississippi River Parkway Commission
Minnesota’s Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MN-MRPC) is a statutory Commission, recognized in 1963, whose mission is to…To preserve, promote and enhance the scenic, historic and recreational resources of the Mississippi River, to foster economic growth in the corridor and to develop the national, scenic and historic byway known as the Great River Road. The MN-MPRC is part of the larger 10-State National MRPC organized in 1938 to celebrate the Mississippi River by developing the Great River Road Scenic Byway. The 10 states include: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The National MRPC is the oldest organization whose work ties together all the Mississippi River states.