Great River Road

  • Ghosts of Galena

    This sweet town in northwest Illinois is packed with history . . . and mystery.

    In the northwest corner of Illinois, there's no more cheerful place than Galena. Eventually, demand for lead waned, and the river connecting Galena to the Mississippi filled with silt. The town went into a deep sleep until the 1960s, by which point it had become a virtual museum.

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  • Prairie du Chien's past

    A riverside estate provides a window into the Victorian high society of frontier Wisconsin.

    He was young and dashing, the son of Wisconsin's first millionaire, an Indian trader who became a country gentleman. The pair loved art, horses and books; after they met in St. Paul and married, they honeymooned in Europe, where they commissioned an artist to cast their handsome faces in bronze.

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  • Outdoors in Galena

    In an Illinois shopping town, tourists discover life beyond Main Street.

    So you've done Galena — the shopping, the wine-tasting, the trolley tours, the historic houses. What now? This mining town in northwest Illinois boomed, went bust and came back as a boutique town for urban weekenders. Now, it's returning to nature.

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  • One fall swoop

    The roller-coaster hills and riverside bluffs of northeast Iowa yield a photo album of panoramas.

    Long before the second-growth forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s north woods became fall destinations, sightseers were flocking to northeast Iowa. Flat? Hardly. In this part of Iowa, only the river is flat. Towering bluffs line the Mississippi, providing unparalleled views of the sprawling river plain.

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  • Feasting in Dubuque

    Guests on a progressive dinner and mansion tour get a good look at what frontier fortunes could buy.

    Walnut carpenter's lace. Fireplaces made of Italian mosaic tile. Yards of leaded glass and richly printed, century-old wallpaper. Oooooohh. That's what the two dozen people on a house tour and progressive dinner in Dubuque, Iowa, kept saying as the tour progressed from one Victorian mansion to another.

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  • Galena getaway

    In northwest Illinois, this historic village is a favorite destination.

    In the grand scheme of things, Galena, Ill., was destined to be a flash in the pan. The flash came from the shiny lead sulfide upon which the town's fortunes were built in the 1830s, '40s and '50s; galena is the Latin word for the ore. It made many people rich, and in the 1850s, Galena, three miles from the Mississippi, was the busiest port between St. Paul and St. Louis.

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  • Destination: Dubuque

    A once-shabby Mississippi River port town in Iowa now is a tourists' playground.

    For much of its existence, Dubuque, Iowa, has been a little short on charisma. It started out well, with a lead-mining boom and eight breweries and Victorian mansions filled with millionaires. But it faded into obscurity. For years, its last brewery sat empty next to the 1856 Shot Tower, where laborers once turned molten lead into bullets and cannonballs by dropping it through screens into cool river water.

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  • Lansing on the Mississippi

    Blessed by topography, a quiet Iowa river town has one of the best views on the Mississippi River.

    Tucked into the tip of northeast Iowa, Lansing has been overlooked for a long time. Lansing was the county seat until 1867, when a posse from Waukon stole the county records. And it was a boom town in the 1870s and '80s, when farmers beat a path to its grain elevator and levee.

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  • Memorable McGregor

    A picturesque river town in Iowa claims more than its share of attractions and oddities.

    Over the years, the byways around McGregor, Iowa, have seen an extraordinary procession of people. Between 650 and 1300, Woodland Indians built animal-shaped burial mounds, 29 of which are preserved nearby at Effigy Mounds National Monument. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet arrived via the Wisconsin River, claiming the land for France and paving the way for the fur trade, whose center was just across the river in Prairie du Chien.

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  • Mississippi panoramas

    Take in the views from 500 feet above the famous river.

    For centuries, blufftop views of the Mississippi have inspired superlatives. Jonathan Carver called the view from Barn Bluff "the most beautiful prospect that imagination can form.'' Stephen Long said, "The sublime and beautiful (are) here blended in the most enchanting manner.'' Those early explorers embellished their speech to impress folks back home. Nowadays, most people who take in the scenery just say "Wow.''

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