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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

GREAT RIVER ROAD. Until the early 1980s, a single Canada-to-Gulf road was eligible for special federal funding. The states along its route posted "National Route" plates above the markers on this route and marked their own alternate routes across the river, creating two alignments between New Orleans and Hastings-Point Douglas. Signs marking the National Route were later used only in Illinois and Minnesota. The National Route followed the following segments:[5]

   Venice to Port Allen, Louisiana on the west bank
   Huey P. Long Bridge
   Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Greenville, Mississippi on the east bank
   Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge (replaced by the Greenville Bridge in 2010)
   Lake Village to West Memphis, Arkansas on the west bank
   Memphis & Arkansas Bridge
   Memphis, Tennessee through Kentucky to Chester, Illinois on the east bank
   Chester Bridge
   McBride to Hannibal, Missouri on the west bank
   Mark Twain Memorial Bridge (replaced by the modern Mark Twain Memorial Bridge in 2000)
   East Hannibal to Niota, Illinois on the east bank
   Fort Madison Toll Bridge
   Fort Madison to Muscatine, Iowa on the west bank
   Muscatine High Bridge (replaced by the Norbert F. Beckey Bridge in 1972)
   Illinois City to East Dubuque, Illinois on the east bank
   Dubuque to Lansing, Iowa on the west bank
   Black Hawk Bridge
   De Soto, Wisconsin to Point Douglas, Minnesota on the east bank (1)

The Mississippi River Parkway Planning Commission was formed in 1938 with the encouragement of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to develop plans for what was to become the Great River Road.

The commission was instrumental in the early planning and development of the parkway but also in its construction, promotion, marketing, and development. Known as the Mississippi River Parkway Commission and headquartered in Minneapolis, the commission continues to promote, preserve, and enhance the resources of the Mississippi River Valley and the Great River Road. Representatives of the 10 states along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER and two Canadian provinces serve on the commission's board of directors and serve as chairpersons of their state Mississippi River Parkway commissions.

The Great River Road was more than 30 years old before it really began to develop. Although the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Public Lands held hearings in 1939 and 1940 to discuss a bill to authorize a feasibility study of the Mississippi River Parkway concept, WORLD WAR II held up such plans until 1949. The study, "Parkway for the Mississippi River", was completed by the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) (predecessor agency to the Federal Highway Administration) in 1951.

The study concluded that a parkway for the Mississippi River would benefit but concluded it would be too expensive to build an entirely new parkway. The report recommended instead that the project be designated a scenic route consisting of existing riverside roads. New construction would be limited to connecting the existing roads and upgrading them to parkway quality. The Great River Road, therefore, is not owned by the National Park Service as is the case with national parkways such as the Blue Ridge and Natchez Trace Parkways.

The Federal Highway Act of 1954 appropriated planning funds. Each of the states were to develop specific criteria for the parkway and to determine one specific route within each state for the Mississippi River Parkway. By the late 1950s, the green-and-white pilot's wheel marker began to be used along sections of the designated route. Planning continued through the 1960s. The 1961 Iowa highway map was the first map in that state to highlight the route.

Legislation to fund the development of the Great River Road was included for the first time as part of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. From 1973 to 1982, Congress authorized a total of $314 million for the Great River Road. Most of those funds ($251 million) were allocated directly to the states. In 1976, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued program guidelines setting criteria for the Great River Road. The states then set up their own procedures for selecting the route of the Great River Road within their state boundaries.

The route of the federal Great River Road consists of sections that conform to the FHWA guidelines and that were eligible for the Great River Road funds in the 1970s and early 1980s. The states have designated alternative routes that include sections with significant scenic, historic, and recreational interest. While the federal Great River Road crisscrosses the river within each state, the alternative routes provide Great River Road routes on both sides of the river from the headwaters to the gulf. The Mississippi River Parkway Commission makes no distinction between the federal and state routes in its promotional efforts. However, some states do use highway signs that distinguish between a federal and state route.

Regions along the Great River Road. Photo courtesy: "Welcome to the Middle Mississippi River Body

Much of the area of the Great River Road was later designated a National Scenic Byway. The GRR also includes the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway Area where the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers meet. As indicated on the map, other regions exist. (2)

Great River Road (YouTube) https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-norton-ext_onb&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=norton&param1=09ddf052-3afe-4a1d-99bf-662e5fcbbe9c_2020-11-18_ff&param2=hp_nag_nov20&param3=nfm__wk47_2020&param4=nfm&p=great+river+road&type=ff_hp_nov20_wk47_2020#id=1&vid=4b514aa5e954b8d8f4dcb848a3a4aaa3&action=click



1. "Great River Road," Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_River_Road

2. "Welcome to the Middle Mississippi River Valley" Online: https://www.greatriverroad.com/