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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.
  • Buddy Jewell

    (b. 1961) More >

    Buddy Jewell

    (b. 1961)
    Raised mainly in Osceola, his father was a friend of country music legend Johnny Cash who lived at Dyess not far from Osceola. In 1991, he won a talent contest sponsored by super group Alabama and opened for the group alongside Mark Chesnutt and Ricky Van Shelton. The following year, he competed on TV's Star Search, winning male vocalist on several episodes. His success on the show encouraged him to try his luck in Nashville. Jewell was the big winner on Nashville Star cable TV series in 2002, securing a record deal with Columbia, where Clint Black produced his first album.

  • 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.
  • Al Green

    (b. 1946) More >

    Al Green

    (b. 1946)
    This gospel and soul singer is an eight-time Grammy Award winner. A native of Jacknash (Lee County), he’s been referred to as “the quintessential soul man.” The Right Reverend recorded nine best-selling gospel albums. He returned to the secular world in 1987 with “Everything is Gonna Be Alright.” In 1988, he recorded a duet with Annie Lennox, “Put a Little Love in My Heart,” which was featured on the “Scrooge” movie soundtrack. His other hits include “Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together,” “Look What You Have Done For Me,” “I’m Still in Love with You,” and “You Ought to be with Me.” Reverend Green preaches every Sunday morning. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Ed Bruce

    (b. 1939) More >

    Ed Bruce

    (b. 1939)
    Born William Edwin Bruce Jr. in Keiser, Arkansas on December 29, 1939, like so many other artists, this country music singer and song writer got his start as a rockabilly act for Memphis' famed Sun Records. He is best known for penning the song, "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.