Pedaling Down the Great River Road

On Saturday, October 12, the Missouri Department of Transportation held the Highway 79 Color Ride and Bike Lane Dedication Ceremony in Hannibal. Highway 79 has long been known for its beautiful scenery, winding along the Mississippi river.

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Also called the “Great River Road,” MO 79 offers curves, hills, and all the features that those who do not get carsick easily can enjoy. One can always appreciate this road from the comfort of a car. However, when you’re in the car you can’t feel the wind on your face, or hear the birds calling. You also have an unobstructed view of the natural splendor. Thanks to MODOT, you can now experience all those things riding a bicycle on the new bike lanes.

Bicycle lanes are marked from Hannibal to the Routes E/N intersection near Saverton, following the eight miles of MO 79 that has been resurfaced. Altogether, it is a 14 mile route. The dedication ceremony began at 9 a.m. at Sawyer’s Creek Fun Park, with some words from Hannibal’s mayor and a few other dignitaries. Although I was not an avid cyclist, I decided to participate and see how far I could go.

Bikers line up to get that first view of the river.
Bikers line up to get that first view of the river.

We started off in single file, and within a few minutes we had an excellent view of the river. The first half of the route included a slow rising hill, with some level areas, and some steeper areas. The leaves were just barely beginning to change, making me wonder what it would look like when the fall foliage fully emerged. Every time I thought about turning around there was another enticing curve ahead, so I kept going to see where it went. Right before Saverton there was a long downhill stretch that offered a beautiful view of the river valley and the distant cliffs.

At the E/N intersection, we turned onto route E. Those who want to can continue along route E to Lock and Dam No. 22. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the dam is 1,224 feet long, and an excellent place to watch bald eagles in the winter. Route E to the lock and dam is a flat route, which offered a break from hilly Highway 79.

Having gone the seven miles, I now had no choice but to ride seven more miles to return to Hannibal.

Besides the first big hill, the route back was mostly level or downhill. For what felt like at least a mile stretch I did not have to pedal at all. At one point while I was gliding down a hill, now alone as the more experienced cyclists had left me in the dust, I was coming to a bridge. As if on cue, a flock of small, dark birds flew from the leafy trees on one side of the road to the trees on the other. I could hear them calling, and as I crossed the bridge I was among them. I looked up, watching the last of them fly over me. If I had been driving a car I would have missed so much of that experience.

If you are looking for a good bike trail in Missouri, consider MO 79. In a few weeks the hills will be red, orange and yellow with brilliant fall colors. If you enjoy morning rides you can replenish yourself afterwards with breakfast, now offered at Sawyer’s Creek Fun Park. Even if you don’t consider yourself a cyclist, you may find yourself chasing the scenery farther than you intended.

Thank you MODOT for a great addition to Missouri’s roads!

Written by Sally Anton, supervisor at the Eagleville Welcome Center. 

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