With the Mississippi, the Columbia, and more, America is home to some enormous and iconic rivers that have played key roles in the development of the nation. Each river has its own stories to tell and stunning scenery to offer, and one of the best ways to enjoy the rivers of America is by taking a river cruise. With cruise lines like American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines offering multiple routes and experiences at great prices, there’s never been a better time to book a USA river cruise. Read on to learn about a few of the best river cruises you can choose. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.American Queen Steamboat Company - 8 Night Mark Twain's Mississippi - American Queen
2.American Queen Steamboat Company - 8 Night Welcome to the Magnificent Pacific Northwest - American Empress
3.American Cruise Lines - 10 Night Ohio River Cruise - Queen of the Mississippi
3 Best River Cruises in USA
- American Queen Steamboat Company - 8 Night Mark Twain's Mississippi - American Queen, Photo: Jacob/stock.adobe.com
- American Queen Steamboat Company - 8 Night Welcome to the Magnificent Pacific Northwest - American Empress, Photo: neillockhart/stock.adobe.com
- American Cruise Lines - 10 Night Ohio River Cruise - Queen of the Mississippi, Photo: Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: hildeanna/stock.adobe.com
Destination Spotlight: Arkabutla Lake
Located in Tate and DeSoto Counties in Mississippi, Arkabutla Lake is a man-made reservoir that offers a large hunting grounds area and a variety of outdoor recreational activities for visitors. The region that now encompasses Tate and DeSoto Counties and the unincorporated community of Arkabutla was the home of the Woodland and Mississippian indigenous cultures prior to the arrival of Europeans in the American South.
Following the arrival of European settlers, between 1832 and 1826, an area of over six million acres within region was divided into 10 counties, including Tate and DeSoto Counties, which were formed in February of 1836 and included the unincorporated community of Arkabutla. Following a series of severe floods within the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a 1927 flood that was the worst recorded flood in the history of the Lower Mississippi Valley, a variety of flood control projects throughout the region were implemented by the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a result of passing of the 1937 Flood Control Act. The headwaters of the nearby Yazoo River were determined to be the cause of much of the flooding within the Mississippi Delta region, which led to the development of a number of levees and flood control reservoirs, including Arkabutla Dam, which created the Arkabutla Lake reservoir. The project involved the relocation of the nearby city of Coldwater to its present-day site, approximately one mile from its original site.
Today, Arkabutla Lake is maintained as a reservoir along the Coldwater River, located approximately four miles from the unincorporated community of Arkabutla, and is one of four Flood Damage Reduction reservoirs within the region. The lake and its surrounding natural area span more than 57,000 acres, including a dam that measures 11,500 feet long and 37,700 acres open to the public as hunting grounds. It was highlighted in the feature film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which was set during the construction of the valley’s flooding projects. More than two million people visit the lake and its recreational area annually, which offers a variety of outdoor natural activities.
Arkabutla Lake’s Visitor Information Center offers a variety of public exhibits related to the construction of the reservoir and the surrounding area’s flooding control projects. Visitor information on nearby campsites and activities is offered, along with a variety of regional maps and brochures. The visitor center is open on weekdays throughout the morning and afternoon hours.
Arkabutla Lake may be used for day use activities such as picnicking within 10 designated day-use recreation areas throughout the site, bordering the lake. All day-use recreation areas include visitor amenities such as picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, and restrooms. Several sites feature ADA-compliant accessible picnic areas and playgrounds. A number of recreation areas may accommodate large groups and may either be reserved through the Arkabutla Lake Field Office or used on a first-come, first-served basis.
Public swimming beaches are offered at the lake’s South Abutment Day-Use Area and Hernando Point Day-Use Area. Two hiking trail systems are offered, including the Coldwater River Nature Trail System, which is accessible via the North Outlet Channel Recreation Area and features a three-mile and five-mile hiking trail, along with the Big Oak Nature Trail self-guided interpretive trail. Self-guided interpretive booklets are available at the trailhead, located near the Outlet Channel’s northern end. The Swinging Bridge Nature Trail, which is located near the South Outlet Channel Recreation Area, is a self-guided trail that showcases a historic section of the Coldwater River as it existed prior to the dam’s construction. Within the Sunfish Bay Area, the Sunfish Bay Equestrian Trail offers 4.5 miles of horseback riding trail, featuring open unloading areas and trail-end loops for convenient horse trailer access. The Bayou Point and Hernando Point Single-Track Mountain Bike Trails are also offered, featuring novice, intermediate, and advanced track areas. Nearby, the Lost Indian Spring Disc Golf Course and the Swampy Hollow Disc Golf Course allow opportunities for visitor play at every skill level. Boating, fishing, and hunting are also popular activities at the site. During the month of June, the site offers free fishing days and activities in accordance with National Fishing and Boating Week.
Three Class-A camping facilities are located within the site, including the Dub Patton Campground, which offers 66 campsites within a pine forested area and a variety of boat launch ramp sites. 83 sites are offered at the Hernando Point Campground, located within an upland hardwood area, and 80 campsites are available at the South Abutment Campground. All campsites offer drinking water, electrical and water hookups, toilets and shower houses, sanitation disposal sites, and picnic and fire facilities.
3905 Arkabutla Dam Road, Coldwater MS 38618-9737, Phone: 662-562-6261
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Destination Spotlight: Port Gibson
Located in Claiborne County, Mississippi, Port Gibson is a small city featuring a variety of sites related to the American Civil War, including sites connected to the Battle of Port Gibson. The area that now encompasses the town of Port Gibson was originally settled by Europeans in 1729 and was officially chartered as a town in March of 1803. As the state’s third-oldest European settlement, the town belonged to French territory of La Louisiane until the United States’ Louisiana Purchase.
Throughout the 19th century, a large number of cotton plantations were developed in the area following the expulsion of indigenous people from the region, and as a result, a large number of black slaves were brought to the area, creating a majority population of enslaved African-Americans within the region. In 1843, Port Gibson Female College was opened in the area, and though the college is now defunct, one of its former buildings currently serves as the town’s city hall building.
The town of Port Gibson is most noted as the site of several battles during the American Civil War, including the May 1863 Battle of Port Gibson, which led to the deaths of more than 200 soldiers on both sides of the conflict. The battle played a major part in General Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign and marked a turning point in Confederate defense against Union conquer of Mississippi. Despite the battle, many of the town’s buildings survived the war intact due to General Grant’s reported statement that the city was “too beautiful to burn,” a statement that has endured as an unofficial tagline for the city today and appears on official civic signage. The community is also known for its historic Gemiluth Chessed synagogue building, the state’s oldest Jewish synagogue, and for its connection to jazz and blues music as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Though the city’s population saw a significant decline in the latter part of the 20th century as the result of the loss of agricultural jobs in the region, it remains the county seat of Claiborne County today and is home to the county’s courthouse and other municipal buildings. As of the 2010 census, the city was home to a population of 1,567, which was more than 80 percent African-American. A variety of historic sites connected to the American Civil War are offered throughout the city, along with sites connected to the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Visitor information is available at the Port Gibson Visitor Center, which is located within the former Samuel Gibson house and is also home to the Claiborne County-Port Gibson Chamber of Commerce offices. A gift shop is offered, selling souvenirs, books, and multimedia items related to the region, and an exhibit is offered featuring the 200-year-old preserved Gibson family Bible. A variety of buildings throughout the city’s downtown area are preserved as historic buildings, including a number of religions institutions located along Church Street, such as the First Presbyterian Church building, which showcases chandlers from the Robert E. Lee steamboat.
A variety of sites connected to the American Civil War are showcased throughout the city, including Grand Gulf Military Park, which was dedicated in 1962 to preserve the town’s historic involvement in the Battle of Port Gibson. Located off Highway 61 approximately eight miles northwest of the city center, the 400-acre monument and park has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and showcases the Grand Gulf Cemetery and the historic Fort Cobun and Fort Wade military fortifications. A small museum is also offered, along with a number of restored historic buildings, an observation tower, and visitor hiking trails and picnic areas. The region is also home to the Sunken Trace of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which preserves a portion of the 19th-century immigration and commerce route that spanned more than 500 miles throughout the region.
Several notable historic buildings are preserved within the area, including Windsor Ruins, which was constructed between 1859 and 1861 by Smith Daniell and famously served as a Union hospital and observation post during the American Civil War. The house and plantation, which formerly covered more than 2,600 acres, were famously said to have been visited by author Mark Twain. Though the home was spared during the Civil War, it was infamously burned to the ground by accident by a lit cigar thrown during a February 1890 house party, which destroyed all but 23 of its columns and iron stairs. The town is also home to the historic A.K. Shaifer House, which is preserved for its connected to the Battle of Port Gibson, and the remains of Magnolia Church, which served as the first line of Confederate defense during the battle. Other historic sites include Idlewild and the Wintergreen Cemetery, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the former performance home of the Rabbit’s Foot Company, an all-black vaudeville show from the turn of the 20th century, which is commemorated as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Accommodations within the area include the Collina Plantation Inn Bed and Breakfast, which is located within an 1830 planters cottage on 8.5 acres of wooded land and offers two guest rooms with king-sized beds and private bathrooms. The Isabella Bed and Breakfast, which was named for Isabella Person, offers four guest rooms with private bathrooms and serves a full bar offering beer, wine, and spirits for guests. Several annual events are held within the town, including a Whispers in the Cedars Civil War reenactment event in spring, a Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Show in June, and the annual Port Gibson Christmas Parade.
1601 Church Street, Port Gibson, Mississippi 39150, Phone: 601-437-4351
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Attraction Spotlight: Elvis Presley Birthplace
Located in Tupelo, MS, the Elvis Presley Birthplace preserves the childhood home of influential rock and roll performer Elvis Presley, along with several area historic sites connected to Presley’s childhood, and serves as a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Elvis Aaron Presley was born in a two-room house to Vernon Presley and Gladys Love on January 8, 1935, the surviving twin to stillborn brother Jessie Garon Presley.
In April of 1936, Elvis and Gladys survived an F5 tornado within the house, which had been constructed by hand by Vernon. Due to financial difficulties, the Presleys were forced to move out of their home several years after Elvis’ birth, working odd jobs and moving between several Tupelo residences until their move to Memphis in 1948. Though he never received formal music training, Presley began to perform as a singer at local events during high school, and following his graduation, recorded several demos with Memphis studio Sun Records.
In July 1954, a recording of Presley performing a cover of Arthur Crudup’s 1946 blues hit “That’s All Right” was played on Dewey Phillips’ WHBQ radio show Red, Hot, and Blues, sparking public interest that led to a series of high-profile appearances on the Milton Berle Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Presley rose to fame as a leading popular music performer and teen icon, credited as an early pioneer of rockabilly music, which fused country music and rhythm and blues styles. Following his draft into military service in 1958, he ventured into acting and produced a number of soundtracks accompanying his films. In the 1970s, he shifted his focus to live performance, holding an extended concert residency in Las Vegas and starring in the first globally broadcast concert, entitled Aloha From Hawaii. In August of 1977, Presley died of a heart attack at his Graceland mansion in Memphis as a result of prescription drug abuse.
The Elvis Presley Birthplace originated from efforts by Presley himself, following a donation to the City of Tupelo after a 1957 concert, dedicated for the purpose of creating a city park. 15 acres in the East Tupelo area were purchased with the donation, including Presley’s childhood home and several sites connected to his youth. In 1971, the East Heights Garden Club began renovations on the birthplace home, including purchases of period-appropriate furniture to return it to its original appearance.
Today, the Elvis Presley Birthplace site includes Vernon’s original house, built for $180 worth of materials, as well as a small museum, a chapel, a park area and reflection pond, and the Assembly of God church building the Presleys attended during Elvis’ youth. The site is designated as an official Mississippi Historical Site, a Mississippi Blues site, and a Mississippi Country Music Trail site. A concrete circle containing granite blocks commemorating each year of Presley’s life circles the birthplace home, and a life-sized statue of Elvis at 13, commissioned by fans in 2002, stands nearby at ground level. A second statue, Becoming, is located in the park’s Overlook Pavilion, featuring two likenesses symbolizing Presley’s transformation from a small-town boy to an international music icon. Outside the museum, a Story Wall displays anecdotes of Presley’s young days from hometown friends, and a Fountain of Life contains water spouts for every year of his life.
Inside the Museum and Event Center, exhibits detail Elvis’ boyhood in Tupelo and the history of the city that impacted his upbringing. A replica of the Presleys’ 1939 Plymouth sedan, which Vernon drove on the family’s move from Tupelo to Memphis, is also displayed. A Gift Shop sells more than 2,000 items of Elvis-related memorabilia, and a 140-seat Great Hall and 126-seat Theater may be rented for weddings, film screenings, and other private special events.
At the Assembly of God church, moved and restored to the park from its original site, visitors can relive church sermons from Presley’s youth via multimedia presentation experiences. The nearby Reflections pond also offers quiet introspection and meditation opportunities, featuring a Bridge Over Troubled Water, named for Presley’s famous cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1970 folk hit.
Ongoing Programs and Education
A catering kitchen, green room, and 25-seat meeting room are available for use with private rentals of the museum’s Great Hall and Theater. Audiovisual equipment for meetings is also available upon request. Periodic public special events, including tribute concerts featuring Elvis impersonators, are also held at the birthplace site commemorating important dates and anniversaries related to Presley’s life. An annual Fan Day celebration is also held in August, featuring family-friendly programming celebrating the artist’s life and career.
306 Elvis Presley Dr, Tupelo, MS 38801, Phone: 662-841-1245
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