Side by side and decade after decade the Mississippi River and the Great River Road bring more people together with their history, culture and natural worlds than any other North American river and treasured road. The river and road have shaped the people and the land in this place.
Entering into Louisiana across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, a visitor will see traces of Grant’s Canal, dating to the American Civil War. During the historic siege of Vicksburg, General U. S. Grant tried to divert the Mississippi River by cutting a canal at Lake Providence and using the bayous and rivers to bypass Vicksburg. His attempt failed and it is the only time in military history a tactic such as this was employed.
Moving westward, Poverty Point World Heritage Site at Epps, commemorates the earliest North American culture known to exist on the continent. Artifacts found at the site date to between 1700 and 700 B.C. interpretive programs, a museum and guided tour are provided for visitor education. This site was designated a National Landmark in 1962 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
Driving south to Baton Rouge, the traveler finds the State Capitol, home to Louisiana State University, the Fighting Tigers and stories of Huey Long, Louisiana’s “Kingfish.”.
Huey Long, a famous 1930s Louisiana politician, built the iconic State Capitol building, Old Governor’s Mansion and Tiger Stadium. Visitors come from everywhere to visit the State Capitol to see where Long was assassinated and to view his grave and monument . Keen on LSU, when the legislature denied Long’s budget request for a new stadium, Long built men’s dormitories in the round with a football field in the center. Louisiana has the only football stadium with men’s dormitories. For his Governor’s Mansion, Long designed and constructed a replica of the White House. Rumor has it, he wanted to know where the light switches were located when he became president.
Baton Rouge to New Orleans is the most popular drive along the Louisiana Great River Road. The River Parish lay claim to one of the more unusual public December holiday lighting displays. Here, 20-foot-tall bonfires are built on the levee. Why bonfires on Christmas Eve? Some believe they are a carry-down of an ancient European tradition where bonfires initially honored successful harvests. However, others claim the bonfire tradition today illuminates the way for Santa Claus (or Papa Noel, as the French say).
Around Burnside, the traveler will find the Louisiana Great River Road Museum and Interpretive Center. This 28,000-square-foot museum highlights the history of the Lower Mississippi River and how it helped to create the culture of Louisiana. There are displays with historic maps of the river, displays about folklore and information on commerce on the Mississippi River and the passenger travel by steamboats that brought entertainment up and down the river.
Heading toward New Orleans, a traveler will find why Louisiana has a worldwide reputation for good food, good drink and good living. Celebrations such as Mardi Gras, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Essence Festival, the largest African American music festival in the United States, attracts hundreds of thousands to southern Louisiana for the food, music and culture.
New Orleans is full of extraordinary museums running the gamut from the Cabildo, National World War II Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, to the colorful New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and National Park Service French Quarter Interpretive Center. The cocktail is said to have been invented by a New Orleans apothecary in the early 19th century. So enthralled with the Sazerac– a mixture of whisky, bitters and sugar served in a glass rinsed with absinthe – New Orleans has a museum dedicated to the cocktail. - the Sazerac House, a six-storied building with interactive exhibits and working distillery.
No other place can surpass the food found along the Louisiana Great River Road. The best foods can be found at service stations, specialty meat stores and restaurants. Louisiana food is greatly influenced by the many cultures that call it home. File’ originates from the Native Americans; okra, brought from Africa. Jambalaya, etoufee and sauce piquant have roots in Louisiana French ancestry. Other iconic foods found includes café’ and beignets, king cakes, muffalettos and gumbo.
Rich in history and culture, leisure travelers have been drawn to the Louisiana Great River for decades and decades. Rural towns, historic sites, museums, plantations, New Orleans’ French quarter, Louisiana’s State Capitol, Cajun and Creole culture and cooking, Jazz, blues, swamp tours and swamp pop, are longstanding motivations that bring people to travel the Louisiana Great River Road and are expected to drive people here for decades to come.