National Scenic Byway
The Wisconsin Great River Road is Wisconsin’s only designated National Scenic Byway and the best drive in the Midwest.
The 250-mile Wisconsin Great River Road is part of the ten-state Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles through ten states, from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Established in 1938 by Franklin Roosevelt, the Great River Road is America’s oldest and most distinguished byway.
The National Great River Road is managed by the Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC). The MRPC is a multi-state organization that works collectively to preserve, promote, and enhance the scenic, historic, and recreational resources of the Mississippi River.
For decades, the volunteers of the MRPC have coordinated efforts on federal, state, and local levels to leverage millions of dollars for highway improvements, recreational trails, bikeways, scenic overlooks, and historic preservation.
The Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission (WI-MRPC) oversees the Wisconsin Great River Road. The WI-MRPC is made up of representatives from communities located along the Wisconsin Great River Road.
The communities along the Wisconsin Great River Road are among the oldest in the Midwest, with some communities dating to the 1600s. Before European settlement, Native American tribes called the river corridor home. Today, visitors will see remnants of the Oneota, Hopewell and other ancient cultures through the burial mounds and effigy mounds found up and down the Wisconsin Great River Road.
The miles of wetlands and untouched river-bottom forests that run along more than two thirds of the Wisconsin Great River Road are a result of an Act of Congress in 1924 that established the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. The beautiful pools and winding channels that you see on the Mississippi River today are a result of the Lock and Dam system built in the 1930s.