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
No listings to be shown.
Guest Blogs
Famous Arkansans
  • Al Bell

    (b. 1940) More >

    Al Bell

    (b. 1940)
    Born in Brinkley as Alvertis Bell, he has been a disc jockey, a record producer and songwriter executive at Stax Records, the label that make Memphis a major name in pop music circles in the 1960s. From 1965-1976, he was involved in the careers of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T and the MGs, Johnnie Taylor, Sam and Dave, The Bar-Kays, The Emotions, The Dramatics, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Billy Eckstein, Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla. His career also includes time as the head of MoTown Records and the founding of Bellmark records. Some of his songwriting hits include: “I’ll Take You There,” a #1 hit in 1972 for The Staple Singers; “Comfort Me” for Carla Thomas, “Hard to Handle” for Otis Redding plus songs for Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd and others. Currently lives in North Little Rock working in the digital music industry. of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame..
  • Sonny Boy Williamson

    (1908-1965) More >

    Sonny Boy Williamson

    Born on the Sara Jones Plantation near Glendora, Miss., the date and year of his birth a matter of some uncertainty. Beginning in the 1930s, he traveled around Mississippi and Arkansas and encountered Big Joe Williams, Elmore James and Robert Junior Lockwood. He was also associated with Robert Johnson during this period. Williamson lived in Twist, Ark., for a time with Howlin' Wolf's sister Mary Burnett and taught Wolf to play harmonica. In 1941 he was hired to play the “King Biscuit Time” show on radio station KFFA in Helena with Lockwood. Williamson had begun developing a following in Chicago beginning in 1953, when he appeared there as a member of Elmore James' band. During his years with Chess Records he enjoyed his greatest success and acclaim, recording about 70 songs for Chess subsidiary Checker Records from 1955 to 1964. In the 1960s he toured Europe during the height of the British blues craze, recording with The Yardbirds and The Animals. Some of his better known songs include "Don't Start Me to Talkin,'" "Fattenin' Frogs for Snakes," "Keep It to Yourself," "Your Funeral and My Trial," "Bye Bye Bird," "Nine Below Zero" and "Help Me.” His song "Eyesight to the Blind" was performed by The Who as a key song in their rock opera “Tommy” (the only song in that opus not written by a band member) and it was later covered on the Aerosmith album “Honkin' on Bobo.” His "One Way Out” became popularized by The Allman Brothers Band in the early 1970s. He returned to Helena, and died there a few hours prior to a scheduled radio performance on May 25, 1965. He is buried in Tutwiler, Mississippi. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

    (b. 1936) More >

    Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

    (b. 1936)
    Born in Helena, Smith is one of the many Blues legends who were influenced by Helena's KFFA King Biscuit radio show. Considered one of the world's greatest blues drummers, the multi-award winning musician is also a harmonica player. He joined the Muddy Waters Band in 1961 and toured with them until 1964. He rejoined Waters in 1968 and stayed with him until 1980. Smith is a member of The Legendary Blues Band, which appeared in The Blues Brothers movie and has also toured with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
  • John Weston

    (1927-2005) More >

    John Weston

    A Lee County native, Weston was born on December 12, 1927. The singer/songwriter combined fine songwriting with a deep Delta Blues style. John began performing in 1970 and by 1977 had built a local audience in Marianna where he was living. His lyrics, which grew from his personal experience, reflect the humor and irony of daily life. He became a popular festival performer in the Delta and all over the world. He performed solo for many years although he occasionally played with a band. John won the Lucille Award (named after blues singer B.B. King’s infamous guitar) at the Handy Awards in Memphis. In 1995 he began performing as a duo with Little Rock slide guitarist Mark Simpson. His CD "Got To Deal With The Blues" contains several cuts featuring the two. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • Cyrus A. Sutherland

    (1920-2008) More >

    Cyrus A. Sutherland

    Professor emeritus of the College of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, which is ranked in the Top 10 schools of architecture in the country. Other early faculty members, along with Sutherland, included such outstanding designers as John Williams, E. Fay Jones, Herbert Fowler, Ernest Jacks and Keith McPheeters. Sutherland introduced historic preservation as a part of the curriculum in 1976 and he also pioneered the study of vernacular architecture in the state. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Society of Architectural Historians.