Unexpected Discoveries Along the Great River Road Scenic ByWay

The Great River Road, the first of America’s scenic by-ways, is a 3,000 mile journey through 11 states following the path of the Great River, otherwise known as the Mississippi, as it departs Lake Itasca in Minnesota on its way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

Along its path are 70 interpretive centers, museums and historic sites and, as a result of taking a wrong turn, Bruce and I found ourselves at one of them – the Great River Road Visitor Center located on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the St. Croix River with the Mississippi in Prescott Wisconsin.                  

Great River Road






Great River Road


Interpretive panels at the center’s two scenic overlooks explain about the lumber business in these parts that used the Mississippi to move freshly cut timber, about steamboats that moved people and goods, about the big barges that today transport grain from the productive farmland of the Midwest to markets around the world.


Great River Road

There’s a beautiful outdoor sculpture resembling wildlife found in the upper Mississippi made from trash carelessly tossed in the river. As lovely as is this piece of art, we don’t need any more like it. Don’t throw your trash in the river!

There’s a nice little free lending library outside – just reach in and grab a book, read it and return it, or replace it with another book.

I bought some stuff at the gift shop inside and we were both tempted to join the kids on the huge playground. Where was this kind of stuff when we were traveling with a child?


The Art Bench Trail in Wisconsin

Great River RoadBut I totally fell in love with the Butterfly Bench. A local artist and the Prescott 4-H group worked on this together to visually tell the story of the life cycle of butterflies that make their home on the upper Mississippi.

The bench is surrounded by a butterfly garden, filled with flowers and other plants that butterflies need. Images of butterflies are embedded in the sidewalk nearby.

Great River RoadAs it turns out, the Butterfly Bench is one of eight decorative benches in public spaces known as the Art Bench Trail along the St. Croix River, which is a National Scenic River. In the summer months, kids are invited to gather for reading programs and other activities at these eight sites and earn their Junior Ranger Badges.


So, now I’m intrigued by the Art Bench Trail and want to explore more along the St. Croix National Scenic River. If you’ve been there, let us know what you think and what wrong turns we should make for another mojo-discovery.


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