Monday, June 24, 2013

Mississippi River Trail Maps and Route Tips

North 71 to Itasca State Park
Many cyclists have expressed interest in our route and asked us to share our experience.  Detailed daily route maps are outlined on the blog at the end of each day's summary.  The mileages may not be exact as the daily totals referenced on the blog include distances we travelled during side trips to stores, historic sites, viewpoints etc.

Cycle Tour Route Overview - Mississippi River Trail 

Natchez Trace Parkway
Based on the suggestion of another cyclist, we decided to try and navigate the trip without the use of GPS.  We relied on the old school map and compass.  Our intent was to interact with people along the way, and we discovered nothing is a better conversation ice breaker than 2 middle aged Canadian cyclists miles away from home standing on the roadside reviewing a map!  Although, we likely were lost more often than necessary and added numerous miles to our trip we would leave the GPS at home again!  Our fondest memories are of the people who stopped to help us when we were lost and needing help the most!

There are countless resources available on the web to help plan a cycle tour.  We found the following resources invaluable:

State Department Of Transportation county maps

     Illinois Bike Maps by County
     Wisconsin County Bike Maps

Warm Showers - even if you don't plan to stay with a warm showers host, email them and ask for route guidance.  We found they were always happy to help.

Local Knowledge - you can't beat it for the inside scoop on routes, history, camping spots, road closures, eateries ....and colourful characters!

Ste. Genevieve Moduc Ferry Crossing - Flash lights for Service


Detailed county maps were a huge help...especially when we were lost.  We had hoped to be able to pick these up at Visitor Centres along the way.  Unfortunately, we often arrived at the Centres during off hours.  We would suggest finding these maps prior to your trip.  These county maps were also valuable during the times we found errors on cue sheets and route maps.

Visitor Centre - Land Between Lakes, Tennessee
Don't discount old school navigation...the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and the compass points north.  During the many twists and turns of the mighty Mississippi River we found ourselves disoriented and had to  remind ourselves to look at the sun!


We discovered that road conditions varied by county.

Signage was often poor and we quickly learned that a change in road condition usually meant we had crossed a county line.   Road names and road numbers also changed by county and often the same road would have more than one name and/or number.  Additionally, often the back country roads weren't signed at all - so it was difficult to verify turns and keeping accurate mileage readings became crucial.

MRT sign and a Bike route sign....pure joy!
We were always thrilled and appreciative to be riding sections that were well signed!


Planning is important.  Having said that, we found being flexible, adaptable and willing to change our route based on our own interests and road/weather conditions brought us many of our thrills and most memorable experiences.

River Crossing

Happy Cycling!