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.

Highway 61 Revisited

Between Greenville and Vicksburg, the GRR continues along Hwy-1 through the cotton-rich bottomlands, the landscape as unvarying as the country music that dominates the radio dial. Before the Civil War, this land was nearly uninhabitable hardwood forests and fever-riddled swamps, home to snakes, panthers, fire ants, and mosquitoes. After Reconstruction, the valuable oaks, sweetgum, and hickory were logged off, the swamps drained, and levees built. Now just the snakes and mosquitoes remain. It’s a long, slow ride, while US-61 races along to the east.

East of Greenville, just west of US-61, the town of Leland was the boyhood home of Muppet-master Jim Henson. There’s now a small and suitably warm-spirited museum, on the north side of US-82 at Deer Creek, honoring him, Kermit the Frog, and his other creations.

The 50 miles of US-82 between Greenville and Greenwood pass through the heart of Delta blues country, and a number of nearby towns feature high on any “blues pilgrimage” itinerary. Holly Ridge holds the grave of Charley Patton (“Voice of the Delta,” 1891-1934). Robert Johnson (1911-1938) is remembered by a burial marker in Morgan City (one of three alleged grave sites for the blues legend). B. B. King was born in Indianola and is honored in an annual festival every summer. Farther south on US-61, Rolling Fork was the birthplace of Muddy Waters (1915-1983), while the great bass player and songwriter Willie Dixon (1915-1992) was born in Vicksburg.

 

Leland

Holly Ridge

Morgan City

Indianola

Rolling Fork