*Photo courtesy of Deb Rose, MN Department of Natural Resources

What is an All-American Road?

America’s Byways are gateways to adventures where no two experiences are the same. The National Scenic Byways Program invites you to “Come Closer to America’s heart and soul….”The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. All-American Roads are the most noteworthy of all – the can’t miss routes that are destinations unto themselves, with attractions of national and international significance. The Minnesota Great River Road was notified of its All-American Road designation in February 2021, along with Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana.

America's Byways

What Makes the Minnesota Great River Road an All-American Road?

Nowhere along its 2,552-mile course does the Mississippi River’s scenic landscape change more than in Minnesota. The 565-mile Minnesota Great River Road is designated along a cornucopia of state and local roads from the iconic Lake Itasca headwaters to the Iowa border. Evolving river landscapes feature 40+ cities hosting river exploration. Residents and tourists are invited to experience over 700 Mississippi River historical, scenic, recreational, cultural, natural, and archaeological features; and twelve specially designated Great River Road Interpretive Centers. While Minnesota’s Great River Road offers 700+ places to see and things to do, the All-American Road nomination highlighted 16 features to represent the journey and feeling along Minnesota’s Great River Road. Use this list as a starting point for your All-American adventure! Find more details and mapping on our Plan Your Trip tool or order a print map today.

Eight Unique Scenic Reaches 

  • Lake Itasca – the Mississippi River’s birthplace
  • Serpentine River – a twisting, snaking river that challenges the best of paddlers
  • Headwaters Lakes – part of America’s first reservoir system meant to augment navigation and hydropower
  • Prairie River – where the Mississippi grows into adolescence and straightens out
  • St. Anthony Falls – the Great River’s only major waterfall
  • The Gorge – where the river falls 110 feet over 8.5 miles through a narrow canyon
  • Where the Big River Begins – here the Mississippi becomes the river of Mark Twain
  • Driftless Area – where majestic bluffs frame the broad river and valley

Eight Historic Gems 

  • Rustic Architecture of Itasca State Park – blending architecture with nature 
  • Headwaters Dams – create reservoirs that now serve recreation and wild rice production
  • Charles Lindbergh House & Museum – boyhood home of America’s famous pilot
  • Oliver Kelley Farm – historic living farm and home of national farm movement leader 
  • St. Anthony Falls Historic District – where Pillsbury & Gold Medal Flour and General Mills began
  • Historic Fort Snelling – from frontier outpost to World War II – stories of tragedy and heroism
  • I-mni’-za-ska-dan (Dayton’s Bluff) – site of Hopewell Culture mounds dating back nearly 2,000 years
  • River Towns (featuring Hastings, Red Wing, Wabasha and Winona) – quintessential river towns

Photo Gallery

These are some of the features that make the Minnesota Great River Road an All-American Road.
Thank you to all those listed below for helping us show these examples!