Arkansas Great River Road



The face of the river, in time, became a wonderful book ... which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it had uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day. - Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Along The Natural State’s eastern border flows a mighty river that has transformed the land and the people within its reach. It is the majestic Mississippi River, which starts as a stream in Minnesota, winding throughout America’s heartland to Louisiana, where it relinquishes its powerful waters into the Gulf of Mexico.

Arkansas’s 362-mile section of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway winds its way through the state’s eastern Delta region along the mighty torrent. The waterway created a scenic and natural border that has beckoned people to its banks for centuries. Visitors can gaze upon acres of cotton, soybeans or rice as they travel through some of the most fertile land in the country on a Mississippi River road trip. Along the trek, numerous historical and cultural sites preserve the history of Arkansas and its people and welcome visitors to learn more about this remarkable region. In The Natural State, Old Man River carved its way under its own terms…man tried to control it and failed miserably.

The Great River Road was established in 1938 when governors from the 10 states bordering the waterway decided to develop a network of rural roads and new highways to create a transcontinental parkway along the Mississippi River, crisscrossing the mighty river, totaling 2,340 miles. The Mississippi River Parkway Commission was formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to preserve, promote, and enhance the scenic, historic and recreational resources of the Mississippi River; to foster economic growth in the corridor; and to develop the national, scenic and historic Great River Road.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Great River Road and the Mississippi River Parkway Commission. Arkansas Tourism plans to celebrate the historic thoroughfare with a variety of Southern festivals and activities. Want to help us commemorate the byway’s “birthday?” Embark on a grand Mississippi River road trip by car or motorcycle, or just join us in Arkansas for fun Southern festivals and other events found below.

The Delta region of the United States is rich in historical, archaeological, geological, natural, and cultural assets. The Delta region also has tremendous human capital in the people who live there and hold strong hopes for the future. The Delta's human, natural, and cultural resources have the potential to contribute significantly to the region's future.
Memorandum for the Secretary of Agriculture, regarding the Arkansas Delta Circuit Rider Pilot Project, December 10, 1999
Map of the Great River Road
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Famous Arkansans
  • George Hamilton

    (b. 1939) More >

    George Hamilton

    (b. 1939)
    Blytheville-raised actor has appeared in numerous films and television shows, plus penned his memoir, “Don’t Mind if I Do,” which describes growing up in Blytheville. Though born in Memphis, Hamilton feels closer to Blytheville, where he spent much of his childhood. "It's where I will be buried, and it's where I come from," he said in an interview. "I buried my mother there, my brother there, my grandfather, my grandmother -- it's the very earth where I'm going to be." Hamilton is well-known for his tan, which he describes as “cinnamon brown,” and his self-deprecating wit. Some of his motion picture appearances include portraying Hank Williams in the low-budget biopic "Your "Love at First Bite" (1979), and “Zorro, the Gay Blade” (1981). He has also appeared in commercials and television’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He produced “My One and Only,” staring Renee Zellweger, in 2009.
  • Mike Utley

    (b. 1947) More >

    Mike Utley

    (b. 1947)
    Musician Mike Utley was born in Blytheville and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a zoology degree. Early in his career he worked with the house band for Atlantic Records, backing performers such as Aretha Franklin, Jerry Jeff Walker and the Allman Brothers. In February 1973, after Jimmy Buffett had moved to Key West from Nashville, he heard Utley playing keyboards on one of Jerry Jeff Walker’s albums. He liked what he heard and asked Utley to play on his first major label album, "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean." Utley continued to work with other performers in the mid-1970s while continuing to work with Buffett until the latter’s 1977 breakout "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” He then joined the Coral Reefer Band full-time, making him the longest active member of the band. He now serves as its musical director. Utley has recorded with an impressive list of artists over his career, including Aretha Franklin, Ronnie Hawkins, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Jimmy Cliff, Sam The Sham, Jackson Browne, Booker T. Jones, and John Kay of Steppenwolf. He's also produced many albums with Buffett. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • Carroll Cloar

    (1913–1993) More >

    Carroll Cloar

    (1913–1993)
    Carroll Cloar was born on January 18, 1913, on a cotton farm approximately 10 miles north of Earle. He studied various genres of art with most of his paintings being casein tempera or acrylic—on large canvases, depicting images drawn from photographs and his own memories. His style has been described as both primitive and progressively modern. Cloar earned national acclaim as a realist and surrealist artist with the majority of his works based on his memories of growing up in the Arkansas Delta. His paintings are characterized by flattened figures in landscapes formed of decorative patterning. One of his paintings was chosen to be among six paintings by American artists commemorating President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. On April 10, 1993, Cloar died after a long battle with cancer. He was cremated and his ashes scattered across his old home place in Earle. Places where Cloar’s works can be viewed include the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Crittenden County Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Library of Congress, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Whitney Museum.
  • Wayne Jackson

    (b. 1941) More >

    Wayne Jackson

    (b. 1941)
    Grew up in West Memphis before his life took him across the Mississippi River to Memphis, where he became a legendary backup trumpeter in such groups as the Mar-Keys. Jackson would go on to perform with a "who's who" of artists from around the world on over 300 gold and platinum records. He has played on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Sting, Tanya Tucker, Elvis Presley, U2, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Otis Redding, Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, The Doobie Brothers, Marty Robbins, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Buffett, and Robert Cray and was a founder of the legendary Memphis backing band, The Memphis Horns. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • Conway Twitty

    (1933-1993) More >

    Conway Twitty

    (1933-1993)
    Known as the "High Priest of Country Music," this Country Music Hall of Famer was born and raised in Helena. He was born as Harold Jenkins and later chose his stage name from Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. He also considered "Bald Knob" as a stage name. Twitty's No. 1 hits include: "Hello, Darling," "It's Only Make Believe" and "Tight Fitting Jeans." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.