September good month to discover Great River Road

Published 5:09 pm Sunday, September 6, 2015

An adventure waits outside of Vicksburg’s front door.

The Mississippi River Parkway Commission is celebrating September as Drive the Great River Road Month. It has been called “one of the oldest, longest and most unique scenic byways in North America.”

The Great River Road runs through 10 states along both sides of the Mississippi River and through the heart of America.

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“Within the last few years, the Mississippi River has been designated a National Heritage Trail,” Carol Buelow, a Mississippi Parkway Commissioner, said.

The route stretches 3,000 miles from Lake Itasca State Park in Minnesota all the way to Venice, La., on several different roads traveling on either side of the river. The course of the road is marked by white signs with a green pilot’s wheel logo and comes through Vicksburg on U.S. Highway 61.

“It’s very well marked,” Buelow said. “The paddlewheel is very visible along the highway that’s why we really need to let people know that it’s right here.”

The Vicksburg National Military Park and the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site are two of the 70 designated interpretive centers on the road’s map, which includes historical sites, museums and wildlife refuges.

“It’s right in our front door. We need to appreciate the beauty that we have right here in our own city,” Buelow said.

Buelow is one of 10 Mississippi Parkway Commissioners in the state who are appointed by the governor. She works with state chair commissioner Faye Wilkinson to represent Warren, Sharkey and Issaquena counties.

The state commission is part of the 10-state national commission.

“We work for economic tourism development. We have environmental issues; we have historical issues that impact the river and the communities that are right along the Great River Road,” Buelow said. “We do promotional activities, like this Drive The Great River Road, to encourage tourism and economic development. We work in tandem with the Corps of Engineers and with the National Park Service.”

The commission encourages travelers to experience local activities, festivals and attractions in the communities they drive through. Whether the journey lasts one-day or one-month travelers can experience different ways of life along the river.

“There are all types of activities, there’s hiking, there’s camping, all along the river, up and down,” Buelow said. “The northern section of the river has different kinds of activities than the southern section of the river. For example, Wisconsin, Minnesota, they use the river for lots of recreational activities and sailboat races. Whereas in our area of the river it’s not safe to do that and it’s mostly a commercial use of the river.”

Itineraries tailored to specific interests like food, music/art/culture, recreation/nature and history/Americana are suggested by the commission on their website along with other general itineraries.

September was chosen as the promotional month specifically because of the time of year.

“It’s the designated Drive The Great River Road Month because of the changing of the seasons and the leaves,” Buelow said. “It’s just going to be a pretty time to drive The Great River Road.”

A limited number of free key chains are available at each interpretive center on the route during the month of September.

A $500 sweepstakes is also up for grabs. To enter, ‘like’ The Great River Road Facebook page and submit the entry form on their website before the end of the month.

For more gear, visit their new online web store For more information, visit the website, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.