The Great River Road

Old Man River, Father of Waters, “body of a nation,” Big Muddy—by any name the mighty Mississippi cuts a mythic figure across the American landscape.

Savanna: Mississippi Palisades

Across the Mississippi from Iowa, Savanna, Illinois, is an old railroad town that has grown into an antiques center, offering three antiques minimalls along the main drag. Savanna maintains a few pretty Victorian mansions up on the heights, but for a truly attractive vista take a detour north along Hwy-84 from the end of the Iowa bridge to the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park (815/273-2731), with its great eroded bluffs (popular with rock climbers), 13 miles of hiking trails (brilliant fall color in the forested ravines), and fine river views. There’s camping, too, with hot showers and RV hookups.

Between Savanna and the I-80 beltway around the Quad Cities are nearly 50 flat miles of river valley, dotted with small historic river and railroad towns mixed in with new commercial and residential construction. Agriculture is conspicuous, too, and the sandy soils between Savanna and Thomson are particularly known for their melon crops. While the Mississippi for the most part stays invisible from the GRR, the industry on its banks is clearly evident, especially at night. River access is at hand via a handful of recreation areas in the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

 

Savanna

Mississippi Palisades State Park

Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge