Take a scenic route of the Upper Mississippi as your travel to Voyageurs State Park—and drop some fishing lines along the way.
LET'S BE HONEST HERE
The Gateway Arch is not most folks' favorite national park. However, it is the perfect starting point for an all-American journey—just ask Lewis and Clark. But while those bros headed west, we propose taking a big right turn to go north. With the banks of the Big Muddy on your passenger side, you can accelerate upstream—like a salmon—to where the Father of Waters becomes the land of lakes. Whether you're looking to find the right fishing hole or to just enjoy the scenic splendor of the Mississippi watershed, the journey itself is the true adventure. And you don't have to be Mark Twain to love that. (Heck, ole boy didn't even have an RV.)
Into the Land of Fishing Holes
As spring thaws out the U.S.-Canada border, the highways warm themselves to the RV crowd—and provide access to some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Lush forests pull from the Upper Mississippi at their root and explode in a vibrant display of life. This means it's the perfect time to pack your camera, fishing pole, and ride-or-dies into your RV. Starting at the man-made portal to the West, the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, you can traverse the course of the Mississippi to its source, steering north through three Midwest States—four if you start with ancient Native American mounds at Cahokia. It's an epic trip for any traveler. But it's a candy land for an angler. Depending on the frequency you plan to drop a line, it's best to go ahead and shore up your fishing licenses in any or all of the states you plan to fish in $49 in Missouri; $48 in Iowa; and $51 in Minnesota. For those for whom fishing has no hook, there's a lot of other fun to catch, from the Mark Twain Cave Complex in Hannibal, Missouri to the Lakeview labyrinth of Voyageurs National Park.
Journey North to the Border
Proceeding out of St. Louis, you'll emerge from big-city traffic on I-70 and break north onto a string of US and state (and sometimes two-lane) highways that connect you with I-380 around Iowa City and then I-35 in Minneapolis. US Route 53 finishes the final stretch as you head from Lake Superior to Voyageurs National Park and the Canadian border.
The Twin Cities Secret Spot
On the way to Minneapolis-St. Paul, you'll drive across the country striped with river branches and dotted with lazy lakes. So, as you approach the Twin Cities, you might think the fishing is behind you. But think again. U.S. Lock and Dam No. 2's catch-and-release fishery is a prime spot for monster walleye—and that trophy shot you want on Instagram. Trust us: The Mall of America can wait.
Finding Some Superior Lakes
Lake Superior is the largest lake in North America and ranks second in the world. And seeing its broad, blue, freshwater expanse at Duluth certainly gives an immense sense of arrival. (Especially if you're here for walleye, see Page 58.) But Lake Superior is not the only great lake in Minnesota. (In our estimation, anyway.) Just a few hours further north, Voyageurs National Park presents a maze of 30 lakes that your kayak is just itching to explore.
A Delicious Detour
True, you may have all the road-trip recipes you need (see Page 35), but that doesn't mean you don't have time for a detour. Take US-151 North out of Cedar Rapids toward Iowa's riverbank. On the water, Catfish Charlie's gives freshwater entrees a proper finish, from fried bluegills and walleye to all varieties of catfish. Even better? An on-site tap with brew titles like Sandy Bottom Brown Ale and Mudlake Belgian Tripel. Do yourself a favor and get a flight.
A View Atop an Ancient City
Before you put St. Louis in the side view mirror, take some time with the kids and step into the past. Along the city's Illinois banks, the immense grass-covered, thousand-year-old ruins of Cahokia still tower. The pinnacle of Native America's Mississippian mound-building culture, Monk's Mound rises 100 feet in the air and leaves visitors of every age in absolute awe.