The Mississippi River forms the entire eastern border of Iowa. The river valley has a rich Native American, pioneer, and farming history. The state's oldest cities preserve the area's past and provide cultural and recreational venues that celebrate the Mississippi's importance to Iowa.
Trips along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway give the best views of the river and allow easy access to cities, natural areas, and cultural attractions. Towns and cities along the way have preserved their heritage in historic riverfront downtowns where riverboat casinos, antique shops, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and museums flourish.
Theater, dining, and sightseeing cruises along the river are offered on riverboats, paddle wheelers, and yachts. Fishing, for catfish, bass, and walleye, and speed boating are popular on the river, as well. Marinas provide fishing boat, personal watercraft, houseboat, and pontoon rentals. River walkways in many cities allow up-close river views and visitors can watch barge traffic and view bald eagles at the locks and dams along the river.
An abundance of historical sites and museums can be found along the river. Near Marquette, Effigy Mounds National Monument, protects 2,526 acres of Native American mounds, many shaped like birds and bears. Fourteen miles of hiking trails over look the river and provide access to the site's 206 mounds. Dubuque, Iowa's first European settlement, has a renovated riverfront area, with a casino and an indoor water park, and the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
In the Quad Cities area, The Mississippi Valley Welcome Center overlooks the river from the bluffs of Le Claire. Arsenal Island, a former military arsenal, houses the Mississippi River Visitors Center, historic homes, a replica of Fort Armstrong, and military cemeteries. In Davenport's Centennial Park the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science showcases Mississippi River history. Also in Davenport, the River Music Experience explores Mississippi river music through interactive displays.
Burlington, a former territory capital, hosts summer festivals celebrating the river. Crowds gather in June for the week-long Burlington Steamboat Days and American Music Festival. At the southern tip of Iowa at Keokuk, the Keokuk River Museum resides on a steamboat.
The Mississippi River area and Great River Road are accessible along several state highways and U.S. Highways 52 and 61. National chains, local hotels and motels, and bed and breakfasts are available in the towns and cities along the way.