The Upper Mississippi Great River Road
Scenic Byway


Great River Road Effigy mounds
Upper Mississippi Great River Road from Effigy Mounds National Monument Park

Overview of Upper Mississippi Great River Roads

The stretch of the Mississippi River north of Rock Island, Illinois is considered by many to be the most scenic drive along the Mississippi. One reason is that most of this portion of the Great River Road lies within the “Driftless Area” a unique geologic formation from the last glaciers to cover Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Northern Illinois. It is characterized by deeply carved river valleys, high bluffs, numerous rivers, creeks and springs, cave formations, and dramatic canyons. The bluffs that line the Upper Mississippi can reach as high as 600 feet above the river. (Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driftless_Area )

Fall Scenic View Wisconsin Mississippi River Road
Towering Palisades are typical sights along the Upper Mississippi River Road

Actually the Great River Road is made up of several state Great River Roads. Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota each have their designated Great River Road Scenic Byways. Our itinerary crosses the river several times depending upon which side of the river we think offers the best scenic attractions.

Winona Minnesota
Winona Minnesota as seen from the Garvin Heights Scenic Overlook
granddads bluff lacrosse
Grand Dads Bluff rises 600 feet over the river valley and offers outstanding views of La Crosse and up and down the river.

Directory Great River Road Scenic Drives


mississippi palisades park
Scenic Overlook, Mississippi Palisades State Park
Brady Mountain, Perrot State Park
Looking across the river at Brady Mountain, Perrot State Park.
Nelson Creamery
The 160 year old creamery is a favorite stop along the Wisconsin Great River Road for Ice Cream, Wisconsin Cheese, and Lunch.

At Prescott, Wisconsin the St. Croix River (a National Wild & Scenic River) joins the Mississippi River and adds substantially to the volume of water flowing into the basin. At this point the Mississippi River itself turns east into Minnesota. It is also at this point where our scenic drive map follows the St. Croix River, following on the Minnesota side past Afton Alps, Stillwater Minnesota, and north to Taylor Falls and  the St. Croix Falls Interstate Park.

St. Croix Interstate Park
St. Croix Interstate Park

Google Maps. See our complete Upper Mississippi River Road Map here