Just south of Marquette, near the foot of the “original” Pike’s Peak—Zebulon Pike came up the Mississippi before he went out west to Colorado—McGregor (pop. 871) is a river town whose enticing old saloons and storefronts are a fine reason to stop and stretch your legs, watching the boat and barge traffic or simply wandering along the water. A number of browsable antiques-and-collectibles shops line the GRR through the four-block main business district.

Just south of town, the 500-foot-high limestone bluff known as Pike’s Peak is one of the highest points anywhere along the Mississippi River and has been protected at the center of spacious green Pike’s Peak State Park (563/873-2341), with hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, and a campground with a small store, hot showers, and RV hookups.