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
  • Louis Jordan

    (1908-1975) More >

    Louis Jordan

    (1908-1975)
    Born at Brinkley, he studied music with his father and made his first professional appearance at Hot Springs Green Gables Club at age 15. During the 1930s Jordan worked with well-known bands from Philadelphia to New York and toured with Ella Fitzgerald. He was known as "The King of the Jukebox." He penned such favorites as "Choo Choo Boogie," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," and "Saturday Night Fish Fry." Jordan also appeared in several movies that featured his music and toured Europe and Asia during the 1960s. He died in Los Angeles and is buried in St. Louis. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • Beth Brickell

    (b. 1937) More >

    Beth Brickell

    (b. 1937)
    Actress who played Dennis Weaver's wife in the 1966-68 television series "Gentle Ben". This award-winning film producer was born in Brinkley, raised in Camden and now lives near Paron in Saline County. Ms. Brickell also appeared in "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Dan August." The film, "Summers End," written, directed and produced by Beth Brickell won numerous awards. It is the story of a young girl in a small Arkansas town during the last days of summer in 1948. She enjoys the same things as boys including baseball, and playing marbles and pirates. She finds herself the focus of a family crisis when her mother insists it is time that she becomes "a girl." Her father who has always encouraged her individuality is caught in the middle. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • 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. www.albellpresents.com..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.
  • Robert McFerrin Sr.

    (1921-2006) More >

    Robert McFerrin Sr.

    (1921-2006)
    Born in Marianna on March 19, 1921, McFerrin was the first African-American male to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Los Angeles Times critic Albert Goldberg described his voice as “"a baritone of beautiful quality, even in all registers, and with a top that partakes of something of a tenor's ringing brilliance." Father of Grammy Award-winning singer/musician Bobby McFerrin, he made his New York City Opera debut as Popaloi in the premier of William Grant Still’s Haitian opera, Troubled Island. Still is also an Arkansas native.