A destination unto itself: Great River Road receives prestigious All-American Road designation by Federal Highway Administration


All-American view ... The Great River Road, part of which can be viewed from the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Lansing, has recently received the prestigious All-American Road designation. The All-American Road designation is the highest recognition a Byway can receive. Submitted photo.

The  Iowa Great River Road, which is part of a national scenic byway that runs 3,000 miles from Minnesota to Louisiana, has been designated an “All-American Road” by the Federal Highway Administration.

To receive an All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and have one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road or highway must also be considered a “destination unto itself.” That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip. These roads are considered the very best of America’s National Scenic Byways.

“The Great River Road tells the story of America’s history,” said Martin Graber, Iowa Chair of the Mississippi River Parkway Commission. “From big cities to small river towns, through historical sites and interpretive centers, the Great River Road lays out the history of our native people and immigrant communities, the river industry and transportation, agriculture and so much more. This designation gives credence to why so many people choose to experience the Great River Road every year.”

The Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC), a non-profit organization founded to preserve and improve the resources, viability and amenities of the Mississippi River Valley, hopes the All-American status will bring new attention to the Great River Road.

“More attention means more visitors to the 10 great states that line the Mighty Mississippi,” said Anne Lewis, Pilot of the MRPC. “More travelers equal more money spent in stores, restaurants, hotels and attractions, and that economic boost is absolutely vital to the communities of the Great River Road. We look forward to more road trips than ever in 2021!”

The Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center is located on the Great River Road in Lansing and received the designation of an Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway Interpretive Center just weeks after being open from the Great River Road Commission. Visitors to the Center have the opportunity to learn about the history, culture and geographic features of the local region that make the Driftless Area unique. Since the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center opened, the facility has had visitors from all 50 United States and 30 different countries.

“The Great River Road is referred to as The Best Drive in America,” shared Jim Janett, Director of Conservation for the Allamakee County Conservation Board headquartered out of the Driftless Education and Visitor Center. “The Great River Road runs the length of the eastern border of Allamakee County and follows the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico passing through ten states along the way. The Great River Road plays an important role in the local economies along the Mississippi River in the state of Iowa. Expenditures generated on the Great River Road contribute to employment, payroll, plus state and local tax receipts. The Great River Road is the longest and one of the most scenic Byways in America. While traveling the Great River Road, expect to find scenic overlooks, fascinating interpretive centers and beautiful natural areas.”

Created in 1938 and stretching for 3,000 miles through and beside 10 states, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway is the longest such designated roadway and one of the oldest. Travelers planning a journey along the road can order a free 10-state Great River Road map, which shows the Great River Road’s route through all 10 states and highlights the interpretive centers along the way.

Another helpful resource is the Drive the Great River Road app, available for free on Apple and Android devices. Travelers can plot their route along the Great River Road and find scenic overlooks, agritourism attractions, interpretive centers and more. For more detailed information, visit www.experiencemississippiriver.com or find The Great River Road on social media.

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