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(For the week of May 24, 2010)
Great River Road Now Longest National Scenic Byway
by James L. Cummins

The Great River Road, which runs for 3,000 miles along the Mississippi River through 10 states, is now designated in all 10 states as a National Scenic Byway (NSB) by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. Segments of the Great River Road in Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi recently received official designation, which means the Great River Road is the longest National Scenic Byway in the United States.

Tourism is a massive economic engine for the communities located along the Mississippi River and the Great River Road NSB connects communities as diverse as Saint Paul, Minnesota and New Orleans, Louisiana. Travel expenditures in the 109 counties and parishes located along the 10-state Great River Road NSB total $21 billion annually. Tourism also directly supports more than 348,000 jobs in these same counties and parishes.

The Great River Road – which is overseen by the 10-state Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC) – serves as an important conduit bringing travel dollars into the region. The MRPC was established in 1938 by order of Congress to develop and oversee the Great River Road. Commissioners work to preserve, promote and enhance the Mississippi River Parkway for communities and travelers. The NSB designation in all 10 states is an enormous achievement for the entire MRPC organization.

“The MRPC had been working cooperatively with the remaining four states to support their efforts in completing the NSB designation process,” says Bill Seratt, the Pilot of the National MRPC. “All of the commissioners from each of the 10 states are so passionate about the incredible historical, cultural, recreational and scenic assets found along the Great River Road. Reaching this milestone is an important step toward bringing more attention, in terms of both visitors and federal dollars, to the center of the country.”

More than 2,800 projects on those roads, ranging from infrastructure improvements to marketing initiatives, have received over $308 million in federal funding since the program’s inception in 1992. The 10 Mississippi River states have received more than $25 million in grants from the NSB Program for the Great River Road. These designations raise the profile of a byway and provide opportunities for increased tourism. To be designated as a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road, highways must offer historical, natural or other intrinsic qualities.

For more information on the 10-state Great River Road or the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, visit or call 1-866-763-8310.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.