National Scenic Byway Iowa

The Great River Road is the quintessential road trip. Spanning 3000 miles along the Mississippi River through ten states in it’s entirety this National Scenic Byway is a collection of state and local roads winding through some of the more beautiful landscapes in the United States.

On our move to Alaska we enjoyed just a small portion of the Great River Road through Iowa. We started our journey in Dubuque. Dubuque is a bustling river town with a vibrant downtown. A visit to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium will give you a great overview of the vast ecosystems along the Mississippi River. (As part of your travelschooling pre-trip preparation enjoy one of the virtual programs with your kids.)Dubuque also offers several parks and trails along the river.

Heading north from Dubuque the Great River Road winds through corn fields heading in and out along the river for miles and miles. This is where you must relinquish yourself and just enjoy. There isn’t any single greatest sight along the way. The experience is in the journey.

McGregor, Iowa
McGregor, Iowa is just one of many charming small towns along the Great River Road

Making stops along the way to enjoy scenic overlooks or just immerse youself in the experience of small town life of the American West. Bring a birding guide and help your kids identify the plethora of birds living in the swamp lands surrounding the river. Pike Peak State Park makes a great place for a picnic or just to stretch your legs.

Boat Dock in McGregor, Iowa
The beautiful Mississippi River is home to a plethora of bird species.

We intended on following the road up to La Crosse and heading west from there to South Dakota. Our GPS went rogue on us though and brought us inland long before our intended destination. This is, of course, in some ways a disappointment, but at the same time we got to explore miles and miles of Iowa farmlands and even ended up at the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. The caves were closed because of coronavirus, but the prairie and surrounding woodlands were just stunning.

Eventually we joined up with I-90 and headed west into South Dakota. Here, we look forward to enjoying some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in De Smet.

Someday though, I would love to traverse the Great River Road in it’s entirety from Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here to read the entire story of our move to Alaska.

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About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website penciltreks.com. Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

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