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.
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.
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.