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Great River Road
A designated route, the Great River Road, consisting of local, state, federal and provincial roads, that spans ten states along the Mississippi River. The route is included in parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The green and white steamboat pilot wheel highway signs are a distinctive marker depicting the route along the way.The road is designated a National Scenic Byway in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Take a break along the way in McGehee. Happy travels in southern Arkansas.
Venture Out into Eastern Arkansas
The Mississippi River divides Arkansas and Mississippi, but it also yields some of the most breathtaking and scenic views as you cruise along it's nearby roads and banks. Enjoy a drive north along the Great River Road on your next visit to Arkansans, and see McGehee, West Helena, and West Memphis.
Embark on a journey through eastern Arkansas as you enjoy the sights along this Great River Road Tour. McGehee should be the launching point, as it’s the southern most of these cites along the way. Though McGehee was almost completely wiped out by the Flood of 1927, this charming and vibrant city bounced back and is now home to a selection of premier attractions.
Spanning the length of 10 states along the Mississippi River, the Great River Road meanders though McGehee. This will be the ideal way to explore eastern Arkansas and the highlights provided due to its proximity to the Mississippi River. In Arkansas, you’ll note it to be one of the National Scenic Byways. The section of the Great River Road in Arkansas takes you through the country’s largest alluvial plain.
One of McGehee’s true gems is the World War II Japanese American Internment Museum. Found in downtown McGehee, this WWII museum focuses on the 10 Japanese American internment camps established by the War Relocation Authority. Nearby Rohwer and Jerome were home to two of the easternmost camps established. Be sure to check out the permanent exhibit, Against Their Will.
As you explore McGehee along the Great River Road, keep an eye out for the Wiley A. McGehee Memorial Park. Ideal during any spring or summer visit to McGehee, this charming park yields a wealth of outdoor adventures. Check out the pond where you and the kids can feed the ducks, or play a few matches of tennis at the South Annex area of the park.
From McGehee, make your way north along the Great River Road into West Helena. This charming eastern Arkansas city is nestled along the western shore of the Mississippi River, intersected by Highway 49. As you plan your stay in West Helena, be sure to include some of the top attractions, like the Pillow-Thompson Victorian House, the Lily Peter Auditorium, and the Helena-West Helena Public Golf Course.
You won’t want to skip a chance to experience a live show at the Lily Peter Auditorium. Head to the Phillips Community College campus and see what’s playing at the Lily Peter Auditorium – it’s host of the annual Warfield Concert Series. You can see the live show, “Bobby Horton, Songs and Stories of the Civil War,” or the annual “Christmas Memories” event.
What many consider to be the most impressive and iconic historic home in West Helena, the Pillow-Thompson Victorian House was constructed in 1896. Jerome B. Pillow utilized his deep knowledge of Queen Anne architecture when he built the house. Built of full-wood construction – the only historic home in West Helena to do so – it’s also the only historic home available for public tours in the city.
Just west of downtown West Helena, the Delta Heritage Trail State Park is a premier outdoor destination for you Great River Road tour. The entirety of the park spans nearly 960 acres, while the actual Heritage Trail is roughly 14 miles in length.
Side Trip! Crowley’s Ridge Parkway
After you’ve experienced the thrills of a tour through West Helena, make a slight detour as you continue your trip north into West Memphis – don’t miss Crowley’s Ridge Parkway. Officially a National Scenic Byway, Crowley’s Ridge stretches 212 miles in total across northeast Arkansas and into Missouri.
West Helena is the ideal place to start exploring Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, as its southern most tip begins just outside of downtown. As you travel along this historic national byway, you’ll discover Crowley’s Ridge State Park, the historic Campbell House, and it takes you just past the western ridge of Village Creek State Park.
Continue north on this tour and venture into West Memphis. Quaint and rich with southern charm, West Memphis is another Arkansas city bordering the Mississippi River. West Memphis is an ideal destination to cap off this drive tour, and it yields easy access to Crowley’s Ridge Parkway. As you explore West Memphis, be sure to visit these excellent attractions.
Especially great during spring and summer, the Riverside International Speedway is a premier destination for racing fans visiting West Memphis. At a quarter mile, and with its high banks, Riverside International Speedway is a fast paced, excitement-filled dirt track in eastern Arkansas. Races at Riverside International Speedway generally start in mid to late March, and roll through to the end of November.
Find out all of the interesting local tidbits and flair with a tour of the Arkansas Welcome Center. West Memphis visitors are treated to the latest news and information regarding local attractions – openings, closings, fees, events, and more. There are also computer kiosks and printers if you need to print off ticket vouchers or this very drive tour.
Head north just 23 miles and you’ll find the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge and the Wapanocca Lake – two outdoor destinations near West Memphis yielding the best in spring and summertime fun. Hike through the well-aged bottomland hardwood forests, or explore the cypress swamps and grasslands. If you’re visit is during the colder months, keep an eye out for wintering waterfowl, as the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge is a stopover destination for the migratory birds.