This year the Great River Road — the 10-state byway of the Mississippi River — marks 80 years of encouraging the American public to experience the Mississippi River. September is also Drive the Great River Road month. Traveling Minnesota’s portion of the Great River Road just got easier with two recent Minnesota Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MN-MRPC) improvements.
The commission partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to replace 601 distinctive pilot’s wheel signs along the full 565-mile route from Itasca State Park to the Iowa border after a survey determined over half the way-showing system was missing or defective.
Second, a Plan Your Trip interactive map application, complete with Great River Road Interpretive Center and attraction details, is now available by going to http://mndot.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=8a07c775f25c4099a8200429b372f2a2&extent=-
02100. The online application makes exploration of Minnesota’s river stories more accessible and traveler planning easier, both before and while on the road. Biking, hiking and on-the-water experiences are also included.
“With these improvements, there’s no better time to explore the byway and learn how the river has impacted you as a Minnesotan and an American,” said Minnesota Mississippi River Parkway Commissioner Anne Lewis.
The new planning tool provides local resources and maps for recreational areas, historic and arts displays, airport and train station locations, aerial and highway maps, and links to local resources such as farmers markets and state parks. The goal is to make traveling the Great River Road the most rewarding way to explore the Mississippi River and its communities.
Printed maps are still available at www.mnmississippiriver.com, and also at many vacation information centers in towns along the river.
“These tools are a launching pad,” said Carol Zoff, technical advisor to the MN-MRPC from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “Our goal is to get started with this online approach to Great River Road travel planning and refine it with the help of travelers and our local partners at interpretive centers, river attractions and convention and visitors’ bureaus throughout the river’s corridor.”
John Anfinson, superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and a Parkway Commission liaison, said the Mississippi River is one of the state’s most important resources. “Having its assets collected and archived in one place provides an invaluable tool for visitors and residents along the river.”
Plan Your Trip also includes expanded interactive travel guides for each of Minnesota’s Great River Road six distinct regions from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to the Bluffs Region at the Iowa border. Each has unique features and histories, towns and recreational opportunities. At least one Great River Road Interpretive Center is in every one of the six regions, often at a cultural, historic or recreational site.
More on Minnesota’s Mississippi River Parkway Commission
MN-MRPC is a statutory commission, recognized in 1963, whose mission is 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 Great River Road is one of the longest and oldest national scenic byways in the country.