Great River Road State Park
Between Clarksdale and Greenville, the Great River Road winds west of the much busier US-61, looping next to the Mississippi River along Hwy-1. It’s a rural road, running past soybean, cotton, and “pond cat” farms—catfish farming is big business hereabouts. Midway along, the GRR runs past Great River Road State Park, near the town of Rosedale. Located inside the Mississippi River levee, the park offers unique views of the “Father of Waters” from a 75-foot-high overlook tower.
Farther south, at the north edge of Greenville, the 1,000-year-old, 55-foot-high earthen cones next to the highway are the remnants of the prehistoric Mound Builder people who lived here a millennium ago. Now preserved as the Winterville Mounds, the 12 ancient mounds that remain are thought to have been sacred ceremonial sites. Little is known about the enigmatic people who built them and hundreds of others along the banks of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, but the on-site museum (daily, free) shows off a range of pottery and arrowheads recovered here.
The Delta’s largest city, Greenville (pop. 34,400) is one of the largest river ports in the state, but instead of cotton-shipping wharves, its levees are now lined by floating casinos. Hwy-1 through Greenville takes top honors for the least attractive strip of gas stations and minimarts along the GRR, but appearances can be deceiving, as the city has some fine cultural traditions, from the anti-Ku Klux Klan editorializing of Hodding Carter’s Delta-Democrat Times during the 1950s and 1960s to the great steaks and hot tamales served up since 1941 at Doe’s Eat Place (502 Nelson St., 662/334-3315). Despite being granted a James Beard “American Classic” award in 2007, Doe’s is still housed in the same big white building it started in (follow North Broadway to the brick churches, then turn toward the river). It’s known for good food and good spirits throughout the state—and all over the South. Several other Doe’s Eat Place restaurants have opened, including one in Little Rock, Arkansas, that was made famous by former president Bill Clinton. Though Doe’s looks homespun, its prices are not; steaks will set you back a good $19 or more.
For faster, more affordable food, stop for breakfast at Jim’s Café (314 Washington Ave., 662/332-5951) or try the chili-cheese combos at Gino’s Hamburgers & Catfish (128 W. Reed St., 662/378-9655), off South Main Street.
Second to Clarksdale in the Delta blues galaxy, Greenville comes alive in mid-September during the annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival (662/335-3523). For accommodations, look along US-82 near the junction with US-61, east of town.