I discovered the Great River Road along the Mississippi River in 2000. That was prior to internet guidance for vacation adventures. I don’t recall how I received information or river road maps. I do have a scrap book with cut up brochures amongst the pictures from Dubuque, Iowa and all the way up to Minneapolis/St. Paul though. 

I remember that was a fun trip. However, my adventures didn’t lead me back to the Mississippi River until ten years later.  My SO (significant other) and I started traveling to the Mississippi River in October 2010. The first trek was unplanned. We started by traveling to southern Iowa and then down to St Charles, Missouri. We stayed at bed and breakfasts that we found along the journey. We learned new things, visited new places, tried new foods, ran into flooded highways and wandered somewhat aimlessly, all the while laughing and enjoying our non-scheduled time. We thought it was a great weekend getaway. 

We did not plan to return to the river year after year. It seemed to call us back every October, though, and we finally realized that it was something we should commit to each year. Sometime we even go more than once a year. Even with Covid and social distancing, we went to river twice. Once in July for four days and once again in October for five days.

I have discovered that the large body of moving waters is actually very calming. It rebalances me just by viewing its magnificence. It is called “Old Man River” because of its slow current. Watching the current move and reflect in the light in everchanging ways calms my anxiety. And the sheer size of the river (it’s actually up to a couple miles wide in places) is a reminder that the world and the things in it are too big for me to control and the release any ideas associated with trying. 

The beauty of the river on the northern stretches (Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) has become my favorite. The river is lined with forests and thick vegetation. The views of nature and wildlife, especially bald eagles, amazes me. The areas where the river is dotted with islands and peninsulas are the most beautiful from the overlooks. These views are absolutely breathtaking and I always attempt to catch amazing pictures. No picture will ever begin to capture what I see with my eyes though.

The river is framed on each side by highways and railroad tracks.  Cars and motorcycles travel up and down the byway. Some are locals who live in the river towns and others who are like us, visitors who come to enjoy the views and adventures. Commodities are transported by semis and train cars along the banks while the tugboats are doing the same on the river. The large quantities of barges pushed by the tugboats always amazes me. I always count the barges and then wonder how those little tugboats can have that much power. The river is also full of a variety of recreational boats, fast to slow, big to small. .

This is but an overview of what the river is to me. It is just the tip of the iceberg of what the trips hold for us – discovery and boundless adventures.