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Jamie Z 05-18-2009 04:10 AM

Mississippi River Trail Project
If you're not familiar, the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) is a bicycle route which follows the Mississippi River from "its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico." Almost all of it is public roads.

Here's what we have mapped so far. For GPX routes, see below.
(photo from )

As a bicycle route, it is by design, kept on low-traffic roads, goes through some beautiful scenery, and visits some fascinating small towns. This makes is a perfect motorcycle route as well.

In contrast to the Great River Road, which often takes highways and bypasses the small and economically weak towns. The MRT has its focus on safety of the cyclist, rather than revenue dollars to the tourism sights along its path.

My goal has been to map the MRT. Unfortunately, much of it is unsigned, and even when it is signed, many of the signs are missing or hard to see. Having the GPS route helps greatly when trying to navigate this mostly-rural route.

This thread will be an ongoing project to route the entire route. A thorough Google search turned up no existing projects like this, and in one case, I even found a route file for the MRT which didn't follow the posted signs.

Mississippi Alternate:

I'm looking for volunteers to help me! If you live in a Mississippi River state, you can help me map out the route. Reply here or PM me.


Jamie Z 05-18-2009 04:19 AM

Mapping the MRT
The MRT is a signed route which follows small rural roads and in some rare cases, bicycle paths. My goal is to route the entire course by GPS with downloadable GPX files for anyone to use to ride along the Mississippi.

In my experience, mapping the MRT isn't as easy as it first seems. The MRT website <> has general descriptive directions, but they're often hard to follow (and I've found some discrepancies from what I've seen in the field). In addition, the signs themselves don't always exist, or when they do, they're in bad repair or hard to see. It's very easy to miss a turn on the MRT. See below for some examples.

Sometimes the MRT follows another bicycle route, but they don't always go the same way.

You'll find that the MRT sign is missing, even though there is an arrow.

The signs are sometimes poorly maintained.

And you can't even see this one.

Here's a view from the back.

Nonetheless, with patience, I think high confidence in mapping the MRT can be achieved. I'm looking for volunteers to help me map the entire thing. If you can help, PM me or reply here.


Jamie Z 05-18-2009 04:22 AM

MRT Kentucky
1 Attachment(s)
My first contribution is Kentucky.

The Kentucky route leads from Wickliffe to Hickman. Beyond those towns I couldn't find any other signs, though technically the MRT should go from border to border.

[edit 18 May 2009: I've updated the route to go from border-to-border and to change the waypoints to via points. This version of the Kentucky MRT should be final.]


RocketMan 05-18-2009 05:05 AM

Very cool, I've been doing something similar though by motorcycle in that I am planning on eventually riding the entire length of the Miss. River waterway and all rivers that flow into it that are part of the Lock and Dam system that allow barge traffic to travel from WV and few other states all the way to the Miss. Delta. I've done parts of WV, up to and along Ohio. Didn't know about the bike route, definitely a worthy endeavor. If I discover any sections as I get in rides along different sections that haven't been covered yet, I'' be sure to post them.

Good Luck!


alma1992 05-22-2009 12:34 AM

MRT mapping
I have just printed and downloaded the map for Illinois. I'm not sure how much I can contribute, but I'll be happy to pass along what I gather. Sounds like fun!:clap

alma1992 05-22-2009 01:15 AM

There seems to be a ton of info for the Illinois portion. I hope the other states are as plentiful. Here is a great link with optional scenic detours.

dlh62c 05-22-2009 02:16 AM

I would like to contribute information from Missouri District #10. While I haven't ridden it, there is a map of it on the site. I know its not a GPS file,. but it's a start. I'll keep looking for more.

Do you want us to research the route....enter it into.... lets say TOPO7....ride the route then send you the file?


Jamie Z 05-22-2009 05:00 AM


Originally Posted by alma1992
There seems to be a ton of info for the Illinois portion. I hope the other states are as plentiful.

Unfortunately, I think Illinois may be the best-maintained portion of the MRT.

Illinois is a long state. I can't expect someone to route the whole thing. Whatever parts you can route are good with me.

The easiest way, in my opinion, is to travel the route and make a GPS waypoint at any significant points. A good rule of thumb is to mark all the MRT signs. Occasionally though, you'll find corners which aren't signed. In those cases, a waypoint at that corner, even without a sign, is appropriate. Just be doubly sure that the MRT does, in fact, go that way.

In other cases, you might find numerous MRT signs on a relatively short stretch of road. In those cases, it's not necessary to mark every sign.

If you send me a GPX of all the marks, eventually I can put together a route of the entire state, given contributions by other people.


Originally Posted by dlh62c
I would like to contribute information from Missouri.

Do you want us to research the route....enter it into.... lets say TOPO7....ride the route then send you the file?


In my opinion, the only sure way to map the route is by riding it. As I mentioned in the first post, I've found a handful of discrepancies between the description of the route online and what I've found on the road.

On the other hand, if someone has already done the legwork and posted a route online, and it looks reputable, I have no problem using that information.

The easiest way for everyone involved, I think, is to send a GPX of the waypoints along the route. Just mark all the turns. From there it should be a simple task of putting them all together in order in a route. That makes it a easy to combine waypoints from a couple different contributors.

Thanks for the effort, guys! I've got Tennessee nearly complete, I just have to put it all together.


dlh62c 06-04-2009 01:35 AM


I got the Missouri MRT route in the GPS, but havn't ridden it yet. I'm not sure when it will happen.


Jamie Z 06-08-2009 12:15 PM


Great! Can you send me the file? We can post a preliminary Missouri route until the time that the route can be verified.


lonerockz 06-09-2009 12:24 PM

Here is a link for the Minnesota map. I will do some riding of up and post my tracks as I do. Wont get out of the cities much till later in the year though. Got other things on my do do list!

Whoa! Found a much better map for the TC metro area!

jallen 07-15-2009 02:26 PM

I live in SE Missouri... about a hour and half from the Mississippi.. Very interested in helping out when I can.. I'm still a newbie with my first bike, but I've already got my trusty backpacking GPS mounted.... I'm glad to find this forum section (GPS Tracks Central).. good stuff...


Jamie Z 07-19-2009 08:51 AM

This upcoming week, July 21, 22, and 23, I plan to ride and route the Arkansas and Mississippi portions of the MRT.

Anyone in those areas up for a day ride?


alma1992 07-19-2009 11:11 AM


Originally Posted by Jamie Z
This upcoming week, July 21, 22, and 23, I plan to ride and route the Arkansas and Mississippi portions of the MRT.

Anyone in those areas up for a day ride?


Not enough time this week to tag along. I have mapped the route from Pleasant Hill to Alton, IL. 20 miles of the route from Pere Marquette State Park to Alton is an actual bike path that parallels the Great River Rd. Once I actually ride the route on the Moto, I'll post the track to ensure accuracy. Enjoy the trip!


Jamie Z 07-26-2009 07:09 PM

1 Attachment(s)
The Arkansas portion is complete. Goes from Memphis to Helena, where it crosses into Mississippi.

It's possible to go skip the Arkansas section by utilizing the Mississippi Alternate route I've mapped out. See here:

[edit June 19, 2013: Version 3 of the route (hopefully) fixes a couple of weird issues I've had with via points disappearing.]


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