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
  • John H. Johnson

    (1918-2005) More >

    John H. Johnson

    (1918-2005)
    Arkansas City native and publisher who founded Negro Digest in 1942, followed by Ebony and Jet magazines. These became the most powerful African-American owned media company in the United States. He also created Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Johnson was the first African-American to be named to the Forbes list of the 400 Richest Americans. He was awarded the "Medal of Freedom" by President Clinton on September 9, 1996.
  • Roberta Martin

    (1907–1969) More >

    Roberta Martin

    (1907–1969)
    An American gospel composer, singer, pianist, arranger and choral organizer, who helped launch the careers of many other gospel artists through her group, The Roberta Martin Singers. Martin was born in Helena but moved with her family to Chicago when she was 10. Contact with Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music led her to form the Martin Frye Quartet in 1933. In 1936 the named changed to the Roberta Martin Singers, which set the standard for gospel choir and mixed group performers. Their extremely successful recording career featured such hits as "Only A Look," and "Grace." She composed about 70 songs, arranged and published 280 gospel songs. Her compositions include "He Knows Just How Much We Can Bear," and "God Is Still on the Throne”, "Let It Be," and "Just Jesus and Me." Martin earned six gold records. Her great contribution to the history of gospel music was her development of a distinctive gospel-piano style and the special sound of her group. With her singers, men and women were integrated for the first time into the gospel chorus. A 1998 U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp was released in her honor. It was one of four honoring gospel women. The other women honored were Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, also an Arkansas native.
  • 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 and the national Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • John Weston

    (1927-2005) More >

    John Weston

    (1927-2005)
    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.
  • 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.