A few months ago I wrote a post about the Iowa Great River Road, a route that follows the Mississippi River from the Minnesota border to the Missouri state line. I’d never followed the route myself, but had great faith that this National Scenic Byway would offer a wonderful driving experience. Last weekend I finally had the chance to try it for myself. Beginning in Fort Madison, my daughter and I planned to follow the Great River Road 100 miles north to Bettendorf. Here’s what I learned.
Gas up before you start. Having already traveled more than 300 miles that day, our gas tank was a tad low when we left Fort Madison. We passed a Casey’s in an industrial stretch of Burlington, but I decided not to stop. I figured we’d see another station sooner or later. That turned out not to be true. After 60 miles of increasing worry, we gave up and drove six miles inland to the four-lane Highway 61, where we found a gas station immediately.
A typical view on Highway 99 from Burlington to Muscatine
Don’t expect continual views of the river. The larger towns (Ft. Madison, Burlington, Muscatine, and the Quad Cities) are built right up to the water’s edge, and the Great River Road will take you to their waterfronts. Between cities, the route runs about 5 miles inland from the river. You will pass through beautiful farmland and lovely neighborhoods, but you won’t see much of the Mighty Mississippi.
You can bike instead of drive. We saw plenty of bicyclists on the trail, and signs that said “MRT”, which stands for Mississippi River Trail, a bike trail companion to the Great River Road. Need more details? Check out this website.
The Mississippi River is an American treasure. I have the pictures to prove it.
The ‘Singing Bridge’, Burlington, Iowa
The I-74 bridge, Bettendorf
Barge Traffic on the river
Lindsay Park, Davenport