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Thread: Great River Road

  1. #1
    I love to lurk! tvgal2000's Avatar
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    Great River Road

    Heading out on Saturday from Milwaukee to Bemidji, MN to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

    I'm planning on riding to at least Natchez, MS (I'm on a quest to Lorman, MS for fried chicken!)

    Anyone done the Great River Road and have any tips/ suggestions? A friend told me that riding the GRR in Missouri was a bit of challenge because the road wasn't well marked ... which was helpful -I've mapped out the route on paper already.

    So I'm looking for any tips! Thanks in advance!

    Sarah B
    Milwaukee,WI
    '09 R1200GS 'Starbuck' my big silver baby
    '13 K1600GTL Graphite Grey... yet unnamed!

  2. #2
    Still Wondering mika's Avatar
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    You give no indication of how much time you have set aside for the trip. So let me caution you about the big question mark route that makes up much of Minnesota portion of the tip between Lilydale (You may have heard about Lilydale's suburbs St. Paul and Minneapolis) and Itasca State Park.

    I last road that section in a single ride from what was my front door in Lilydale to go fishing with friends in the Itasca area in the fall of 2006. The direct route is about a four hour trip. The Great River Route was a little over 14 hours. I drove on everything from four lane state highways to a board paved street near the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis and about 40 miles of fresh gravel roads north of Aitkin.

    The http://www.mnmississippiriver.com/index.cfm?noflash=1 breaks the route into several sections.

    Itasca State Park is lovely. The Headwaters site has nice facilities and all in all you should enjoy it. From the Park to Bemiji is a quick ride with just a few glimpses of the very small river. From Bemiji to Grand Rapids is some fun riding. The section between Bemiji and Ball Club takes you through thick woods, along lake shorelines. The road had recently been paced when I rode this section and I kept having to back off the throttle. Weather has no doubt done its bit to the road and tourist traffic in lake country can be a pain. From Ball Club to Grand Rapids the signage was and road construction resulted in my heading in the wrong direction a couple of times. Grand Rapids is a nice stop.

    The 'Crossings' section of the sites route was my least favorite. The luxury of not having to worry about the clock or calendar so I faithfully followed it on the tip to Itasca but did not on the return and frankly was happy to save the time and didn't feel like I missed anything. YMMV.

    The 'Scenic Mississippi' is a bit of hype. Little falls is another nice stop and a good view of the river. Charles A Lindbergh SP has some interest. This stretch of road does offer some views of the river and is good fun in its own way. LEO is a more frequent traveling companion beginning in this section. Be careful of your speed.

    The Metro Section offers many different options. Once you are south of the University of Minnesota campus you may want to follow the Minneapolis side to Lock and Dam No 1 then cross the Ford Bridge. Take a right at the end of the bridge at the Ford Plant and follow the St. Paul side down from there. A couple of miles down East River Road you will come to stop lights. There is a small overlook to your right. Pull over there for a view of historic Fort Snelling. This is the area of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.

    Pike Island is bounded by the rivers. The island is named for Zebulon Pike. Lewis and Clark got all the ink for their adventures along the Missouri while exploring the Louisiana Purchase from that side. In 1806 Jefferson sent Pike to explore the Mississippi portion and he set up a base camp on the island.

    Watch for eagles the entire route but in particular form this point on. There are several nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in this section. I spent hours sitting in my backyard watching them try and fish in this area of the river. The area along the river here is a combination of National Wildlife Refuge, State and local parks. Great birding and wildlife in the heart of a metro area.

    From the overlook to I494 and beyond you will have four lanes along the river. Don't speed. 50 means 50 and the St. Paul Police make a decent living at times along this area. Great views of the river and the beginnings of real river traffic.

    Between 494 and Hastings the state sends you over to the west side of the river. Take your pick. I might stay on US 61 and pick up some time. After that your on your own; the great options are too many.
    Pass the mustard and UP THE REVOLUTION!

    St. Paul Pioneer Press , Minneapolis Star Tribune

  3. #3
    I love to lurk! tvgal2000's Avatar
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    Thanks for all that info Mika!

    I'll be printing out your response and use it as a reference!

    I appreciate it!
    Sarah B
    Milwaukee,WI
    '09 R1200GS 'Starbuck' my big silver baby
    '13 K1600GTL Graphite Grey... yet unnamed!

  4. #4
    Registered User womanridge's Avatar
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    Ride on Sarah, get those miles!! And stay cool in MIssissippi. FRIED-CHICKEN!
    Karen Jacobs
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    2012 R 1200 RT
    MOA-133005, RA32109, IBA #37923

  5. #5
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    What basic route have you scheduled? In Arkansas and Tenessee the road is not close to the river in a lot of places. You ride a few miles down to the river and then ride back out. So your not riding along parallel to the river viewing it as you ride. If your going thru Memphis, Memphis in May is going on and Riverside Dr. may be closed to thru traffic. If you are in Memphis on a Wendesday night, Bikes on Beale in downtown is difinently worth a visit. Bikes ride oneway east bound on Beale and you can park anywhere free on the street. it's a real happening. Worth a stop and see.

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