Originally Posted by emcee
This youtuber has a series on the Great River Road from when he drove it 2 years ago:
If you can handle the drama
To add, there are lots of little things of interest that are easily missed. Chester ILL is the home of Segar, the creator or Popeye, and the town is full of Popeye statues of all of the characters. The Hardees has a huge Popeye mural on the wall. There is a small museum at the east end of the bridge over the river that covers Popeye, and the bridge itself. It was destroyed about two years after it was constructed, by a tremendous windstorm one night, blown off the piers and into the river.
A detour over to the Ohio River at I-24 is Metropolis Illinois and is the home of Superman. The have a 20 ft or so tall statue of Superman in front of the courthouse and there are superman phone booths wall murals, etc all over downtown.
In Illinois, highway 3 (GRR) from the intersection of state 149 north to Chester runs right below the bluffs, Its rather scenic looking up at the bluffs and across the flat flood plain of the river. I found a couple of places where I could drive up the bluff a ways for a better view, one was a cemetery. I was in a car, and it was easy to do.
North of Chester, highway 3 veers away from the river. If, at Chester, you instead take the road that runs north along the river, E. Kaskaskia St, It will take you to Pierre Menard Home State Historic Site, Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site, and Fort Kaskaskia Campground, which I have never stayed at but looks like a nice place to stay. If you continue to follow the road, it takes you back into Ellis and highway 3 and from there, you can take Roots Rd across the Kaskaskia River. If you turn south it will take you to the lock and dam and a COE campground, If you go straight on Bluff Rd it will take you to Modoc and Prairie Du Rocher (which was a French settlement if I recall.) It is quite a spectacular setting, with houses backed up to the bluff. About four miles away is Fort de Chartres, a French fort that has been rebuilt, and is a State historic site.
On the Missouri side, north of Chester is Ste. Genevieve, the oldest town in Missouri, a French settlement, which has a lot of nice old buildings. That is where the ferry is, which is a small ferry that will carry about 9 or so cars or combinations of cars, motorcycles, etc.
Further north is Savannah Ill and Sabula IA, and the oldest bridge across the river, built in 1929. It is only open to auto and light truck traffic due to the narrow 10 ft lanes and weight limits. Sabula is a cute town on an island in the river, you ride a causway out to it then take the bridge across. It is a high, iron girder bridge with open grate roadway.
Galena is where U.S.Grant's home is located and can be toured.
Personally I liked the ride up the west side of the river (US 52) from Clinton to Dubuque better, much more scenic.
North of the Quad Cities where I-80 crosses the GRR actually runs up the Illinois side. If you cross over on I-80 and take the first exit and circle back down to US 67 going north thru Le Claire, there is a county museum right on the river across the train tracks from the highway (there was a derailment last year right in the museum's parking lot!) It is the Buffalo Bill Museum, but has lots of nice exhibits. Cody was born in Le Clair. Further north is a turn off to a county operated site that is the Cody home place after they moved out of town. It is a large two story house, part of it is limestone blocks, filled with antiques. I own a lot of antiques I inherited and some of the stuff in this house was identical to what I have, which came from west central Missouri.
Back on the Illinois side at Clinton is Fulton and they have a real Dutch windmill on the levee. Pretty neat to tour. President Reagan's parents were both born and married in Fulton, and there is a family burial plot in the cemetery there.
On US 52 south of Prairie du Chien is Guttenberg, Iowa, which is a 1840's German immigrant community, with lots of limestone buildings built by the Germans, Its a quite scenic town.
There is a aquarium in Dubuque near the river, however it was under construction when I was there last so I never got to see it.
As I noted earlier, the ride up the Wisconsin side from Prairie du Chien to La Crosse was a very scenic ride. At La Crosse is a large campground on an island in the middle of the river. Owned by the city, Pettibone Resort, looks interesting.