September is Drive the Great River Road Month, the Mississippi River Parkway Commission’s (MRPC) annual celebration of America’s oldest and longest National Scenic Byway.
During Drive the Great River Road Month, motorists are encouraged to plan their own trip along the 3,000-mile Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi River through 10 states, from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Travelers can spend a day or a month exploring one of the longest and most unique scenic byways in North America. The Great River Road is also one of the nation’s oldest byways, celebrating 80 years of welcoming travelers in 2018.
Fall is the perfect time to travel through the heart of America on the Great River Road. As the season progresses, travelers can follow the autumn colors south as they pass through cozy river towns and big cities and visit more than 70 interpretive centers—museums, historical sites, wildlife refuges and more—as well as agritourism attractions like fall festivals, orchards and farmers’ markets.
Plan your Great River Road trip with the help of www.experiencemississippiriver.com. There, you’ll find information on all 10 Great River Road states, interpretive centers, upcoming events and must-see attractions, along with suggested itineraries and maps.
Beginnings of Road in Bellevue
The Great River Road project formally began in 1939, in Congress, but informally in 1926 in Bellevue. Forgotten to recent history, the GRR and its route through Bellevue and eastern Iowa trace directly to a Bellevue businessman, inventor, and community leader.
Joseph Albert Young worked for more than 30 years to realize a national automotive tourism route along the Mississippi River. Young was the second son of a prominent hardware merchant, a popular 1889 BHS alum and long-time alumni president, a nationally successful inventor and businessman, a community organizer, and a man passionately in love with the river and Bellevue. He diligently used his influence and connections (his wife was the daughter of a state senator and wealthy merchant in central Iowa; extended family included locally prominent individuals) to put Bellevue into the forefront of this new type of tourism, from its inception into his final years in the 1950s.
Through work with Congress, the early NMRPC, and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Young succeeded in having the Great River Road run through Bellevue. To this day, it runs right past his former home, the Young Museum. Correspondence, documents, and newspapers attest to his successful diligence.