Rivers are the arteries of the planet and vital conduits of human civilization. If you love the idea of exploring a river, it’s hard to beat the mighty Mississippi. It’s an historic waterway that is flanked by a wide array of things to see and do. Just ask Huck Finn. The classic experience is to go rollin’ down the river in a big wheel paddle boat, but you can even drive along the nearby highways and byways to visit these special places. As one of the legendary rivers of North America, you’ll find plenty of scenic and cultural attractions to fill up your mid-American vacation along this famous flow. Here are 10 not to miss sites on the Mississippi.
1. Great River Bluffs State Park
Located in Minnesota near the Mississippi’s origin, Great River Bluffs State Park is a scenic setting that offers stunning views of the river. Many travelers love to visit in fall when the leaves show off their autumn hues. The park’s bluffs are popular spots to visit for breathtaking views. There are also various trails scattered throughout the park for hikers and nature lovers to enjoy.
2. Stonefield State Historic Site
Located just outside of Cassville, Wisconsin, Stonefield State Historic Site features a recreated historic farm village that will take visitors back to the year 1900. You can tour old timey buildings and check out authentic farm tools of the era. For a look at the region’s unique past, this park makes a fun excursion for kids and adults on a Mississippi river tour.
3. National Mississippi Museum and Aquarium
Located in Dubuque, Iowa, the National Mississippi Museum and Aquarium boasts two riverfront campuses that are popular attractions on the river. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, this impressive museum is known for its regional artifacts, hands-on exhibits and 4D theater. The aquarium is home to amazing exhibits that feature otters, rays and giant catfish. All ages will learn and be entertained at this venue that showcases the ecosystem of this vital waterway.
4. Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
Located on the north edge of St. Louis, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is a landmark that crosses the mighty Mississippi in one of the most scenic points on the river. You’ll be able to take some epic snapshots by crossing this historic bridge that was constructed in 1929. The bridge remained open to car traffic until 1970, but today it is only accessible to bicycles and pedestrians. If you’re looking for a quick photo stop on the river, head to this site and its extraordinary views.
5. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is one of the best-known sites of the ancient Mississippian culture that peaked in the area around the year 1200. The park contains about 80 mounds that represent an early city. Anyone interested in early Native American settlements should visit Cahokia, one of the most renowned historic and sacred sites in the country. It is located in Illinois, across the Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri.
6. Mark Twain Museum
Located in Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri boyhood home, the Mark Twain Museum is an important cultural stop on the Mississippi. As one of America’s most revered writers, Mark Twain was a major voice of his era and is still widely read today. You can tour his house and explore the museum’s holdings that celebrate this author of classics such as The Adventures of Huck Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
7. Trail of Tears State Park
Located in Missouri on the shores of the Mississippi, the Trail of Tears State Park commemorates a sad event in American history; the forced removal of the Cherokee tribe to lands in Oklahoma. Many Native American’s died during the march west and suffered immensely. The state park features exhibits about the fateful march. There are also many trails where visitors can hike and explore the somber yet scenic grounds.
8. Delta Blues Museum
Located in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the Delta Blues Museum celebrates the musical genre through its collections and exhibits. The museum is housed in the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Passenger Depot, an historic building that dates to 1926. The museum provides lots of outreach programming and works to inspire others, especially children, to play music. This is one of the must-visit sites on the Mississippi for any fan of the blues.
9. Vicksburg National Military Park
The Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi state was a pivotal point of the American Civil War. Vicksburg National Military Park pays homage to the brutal battle that took place in the city of Vicksburg along the shores of the mighty river. This historic site is highly educational and a great place to bring kids of all ages who are interested in learning more about Civil War history.
10. Historic New Orleans Collection
While the city of New Orleans boasts a wide array of fabulous attractions, be sure to check out the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research center devoted to chronicling the history of New Orleans and the Gulf coast. The museum’s main buildings are located in the French Quarter, so you can easily include a stop here on your tour of the city’s neighborhoods and streets. If you want to learn more about the colorful city of NOLA, add this to your list of not to miss sites on the Mississippi.