The Upper Mississippi Great River Road
Scenic Byway Guide, Part 1.
Mississippi Great River Road – Rock Island to Thomson, Illinois
The Upper Mississippi River Visitor Center located in the Corps of Engineers Locks and Dam #15 facility marks the beginning of the Upper Mississippi Great River Road. Open seven days a week and on weekends they give guided tours of the lock and dam. Even without the tours, it is a worthwhile visit to see the museum/education area with multi-media exhibits. There is also an observation deck to watch ships come through the locks.
While you are in the Quad Cities, there are two other conveniently located attractions you should see. The Visitor Center is actually located on the grounds of the Rock Island Arsenal. If you are golfer, you might enjoy the Arsenal’s golf course, the oldest golf course in the Quad Cities area. But the main attraction is the Rock Island Arsenal Museum, the Army’s second oldest museum, with a history of the establishment of the Arsenal on the island, the arms manufacturing process used at the Arsenal, and exhibits of over 1200 large and small arms collections.
John Deere Pavilion
As you are leaving Arsenal Island to the east, you can stop in another significant Quad Cities attraction: The John Deere Pavilion. After you cross the bridge over the river, turn right on River Drive and it is a block down the street. To learn more about these attractions, see our earlier article on the Mississippi Visitor Center and the John Deere Pavilion.
After leaving the John Deere Pavilion, head east and north on River Drive until it joins with State Highway 84 (The River Road). Then head north towards the historic Dutch community of Fulton. You’ll have some nice views of the river along this route. As you arrive in the outskirts of Fulton, be sure to take the drive into the downtown area to see the famous De Immigrant Windmill and Museum. If you are there at the right time you may see them grinding flour in the mill. Fulton has a number of quaint shops and several nicely restored historical buildings. It is also on the Great River Bike Trail. We did an earlier article on Fulton and the Windmill on our QuiltingPathways website. Learn more about Fulton and its De Immigrant Windmill here.
Thomson Causeway Campground
RV users wanting to spend the night or a few days in the Fulton area should check out the Thomson Causeway Corps of Engineers Park. It is about 8 miles north of Fulton off highway 84. Thomson has 131 campsites, 120 with electric hookups. Wooded, nicely spaced sites. Paved roads and parking pads. Typical 5 star Corps quality. Popular for fishing, canoeing and boating and a good place for families as it is far enough from town and busy highways that you can let the kids “off their leash.” Its also a good campground for biking as the Great River Bike Trail runs adjacent to the park.
See our complete Upper Mississippi River Road Map here