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.

Helena, Arkansas

About a dozen miles west of the GRR and Moon Lake via US-49 is Helena, Arkansas, the most deadly place on the river to Union regiments in the Civil War, stopped in their tracks by the festering malarial swamps that once surrounded the town. It began building a different reputation back in the 1940s when local radio station KFFA 1360 AM began broadcasting King Biscuit Time, a live blues show, originally hosted by harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson; the show is still on the air every weekday at 12:15pm. In early October, the King Biscuit Blues Festival, a.k.a. the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival, attracts fans by the tens of thousands to hear one of the best lineups of live gospel and blues in the nation. The Delta Cultural Center (141 Cherry St., 870/338-4350, Tues.-Sat. 9am-5pm, free), in the renovated train depot downtown, with its fine historical displays on the lives of Delta inhabitants, is an equally compelling reason to visit this small river town.

 

Delta Cultural Center (141 Cherry St.)

Helena