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
  • Cyrus A. Sutherland

    (1920-2008) More >

    Cyrus A. Sutherland

    (1920-2008)
    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.
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe

    (1915-1973) More >

    Sister Rosetta Tharpe

    (1915-1973)
    Born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant around 1915, Rosetta’s early training was in religious music. Her mother, Kate Bell “Mother Bell” Nubin was a traveling missionary and "gospel shouter". Rosetta developed a unique vocal and guitar style that caught the attention of Decca Records who signed her in 1938. She was an overnight sensation and is considered by many to be gospel music’s first superstar. Also a crossover performer, she influenced numerous rock musicians such as Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and fellow Arkansan Johnny Cash. She appeared with such legendary performers as Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan and took the stage at the Cotton Club and Café Society. Her biography, by George Washington University scholar Gayle Wald, is entitled “Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The documentary entitled "The Godmother of Rock & Roll" was shown on PBS as part of the American Masters series. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
  • Albert King

    (1923-1992) More >

    Albert King

    (1923-1992)
    Born Albert Nelson on April 25, in Indianola, Mississippi, King is nicknamed "The Velvet Bulldozer." One of 13 children, King grew up picking cotton on plantations in Forrest City where the family moved in 1931, and performed near Osceola with a group called the Groove Boys. His first introduction to music was singing in church and listening to his father, Will Nelson, play guitar. Another early influence came from the family's records where he spent hours trying to copy the sounds of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson on his homemade cigar box guitars and one string diddley-bows. King obtained his first real guitar in 1942. He was fascinated by the playing of Blues musicians who frequented nearby West Memphis, Arkansas, most notably the works of Robert Nighthawk and Elmore James. He is considered one of the most influential blues guitarists ever and was the first blues guitarist to perform with a symphony (1969). In 1983, he was inducted into both the W.C. Handy International Blues Awards Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. Inducted into the National Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013.
  • William Warfield

    (1920-2002) More >

    William Warfield

    (1920-2002)
    A native of West Helena, Warfield is a Grammy-award winning baritone. He is known for such career-making roles as Joe in the film "Showboat" where he sings the memorable "Ol' Man River," and the role of Porgy in "Porgy and Bess." Member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.



  • 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.