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Chasing Adventure in Kentucky’s Great River Road National Scenic Byway



By Cory Ramsey

I grit my teeth and realize I actually have grit in there to grit.

My face is a glorious mess, a wet combination of mud and a rain shower that's just started to fall. But I can't wipe it off because I'm too busy dodging branches zipping past me at 30 mph.

Although my heart is racing, it nearly skips a beat when we ramp up the sharpest incline I've ever seen on an ATV. One hundred feet. A throaty throttle and the torque jolt me in my seatbelt.

I say a little prayer. We make it up the hill right as a raccoon jumps into the kudzu ahead of us. My heart’s jumping again, too, although it’s balanced by the sweet thrill of victory this time.

Muddy Trails & River Roads

It’s been an awesome day at Carlisle County’s Mississippi River Trails of KY, which has opened its mud to the public. You can buy a permit at the courthouse to ride the county’s scenic trails. But there is a cleaner way to enjoy similar thrills.

Asphalt was laid down almost 100 years ago for cars zipping alongside the Mississippi River. Today, it's a National Scenic Byway called the Great River Road. On it, you can stop at Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site to discover Native American burial mounds.

Or travel to Columbus-Belmont State Park and see a Confederate anchor and canons buried in mud until they were discovered 60 years after the Civil War. Or enjoy a Harper's Ham Sandwich from a hog that once played in the – you guessed it – mud.

Small Towns & Big Crosses

Mark Twain knew this area well, and in his book "Life on the Mississippi" called Hickman "a pretty town, perched on a handsome hill."

Today, the historic riverfront courthouse is still sharp, and an overlook park atop the bluff offers sweeping views and a chance to relax after a day of adventure.

Kentucky’s Great River Road is flanked by crosses at both ends. A giant one stands at the confluence of the Ohio River north. But south at Hickman is a cross of a different sort, passage over the river on the Dorena-Hickman Ferry.

Both entice you to stay longer – and closer – to the river. And the thought of a cross may come in handy when you find yourself tearing through the woods on a rumbling ATV!

Ready to plan your next great adventure in Kentucky’s Great River Road region? Call or visit

If You Go

Kentucky Great River Road

Mississippi River Trails of KY

Wickliffe Mounds State Historical Site

Columbus-Belmont State Park

Harper's Country Ham

City of Hickman

Dorena-Hickman Ferry