The Big River Crossing is the longest active public pedestrian/cycling bridge going across the Mississippi River. First proposed in 1975, it finally opened October 2016 and connects Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas. From the West Memphis side, hikers and cyclists can continue on the Big River Trail which includes more than seventy miles of trails along the top of the Mississippi River’s levee system.
The Big River Crossing is almost a mile in length (1.6 km) and runs parallel to the Interstate 55 bridge. It is open 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. and is free to the public. It can be reached from either side of the river. From the Memphis side, the bridge can be accessed from Channel 3 Drive & Virginia Avenue West with parking available in Martyrs Park. From the West Memphis side, take the Bridgeport/Dacus Lake Rd, I-55 Exit 1. Parking is available on Dacus Lake Road.
3 Reasons to Cross the Big River Crossing
1. The Views of the Mighty Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the third longest river in the world. By the time it reaches us folks in Memphis, it is muddy and really, really wide. The 1-55 bridge is actually one of the narrowest points of the river around the Memphis area, but it is still over 2,000 feet (610 meters) across at this spot. At the halfway mark across the river is a Arkansas/Tennessee dividing sign. Great photo op!
Having family in Arkansas, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed this bridge, but always flying by in a car or from the riverbank. Being able to stop in the middle of the river and take in all of its natural beauty is a true treat. The Big River Crossing definitely shows you how big and powerful the Mississippi River is, and with the many built-in observation points, it is easy to stop and take it all in!
2. It’s free vacation fun for the whole family!
I know I’m biased, but Memphis, Tennessee is a great travel destination (Read 3 Days in Memphis). From the Big River Crossing, visitors (and Memphis) can easily walk or take a trolly to a variety of downtown Memphis attractions. I’m a big fan of Beale Street both during the day (for families) and at night (for adults). Some of the best pork barbecue in the world can be found in downtown Memphis (Read The Ultimate Memphis Barbecue Guide)! No visit to Memphis would be complete without a trip to Elvis’s Memphis Home, Graceland, only a short drive away.
Crossing the Great River Crossing is absolutely free. If you have children that need to expand some major energy, have them cross the Mississippi River! After they cross it, if they still have energy, make them cross it again! Just be mindful of the other cyclists and walkers. The only downside to this pedestrian/cycling bridge is there isn’t a separate lane designated for each mode of transportation like the Arkansas River’s Big Dam Bridge (Read Crossing the Big Dam Bridge). I’m not the most graceful cyclist, and when a child darts out in front of me, well, that’s just say there were no kid/Carmen injuries involved.
At nightfall, the bridge comes alive with 100,000 Philips LED lights. Usually the lights are on a static display, but the colors can be conveyed in a variety of configurations. For the recent Memphis in May celebrations, the bridge hosted the colors of Colombia, this year’s celebrated country. This past Memorial Day weekend the bridge was ablaze with patriot colors honoring our fallen soldiers. I can’t wait to see what the bridge looks like this coming Independence Day when the bridge will add to the already spectacular Mississippi River fireworks show.
3. You’ll feel athletic even if you’re not!
The Big River Crossing isn’t difficult to cross at all. Except for the West Memphis side which has a long slope, most of it is relatively flat. Along the trail you will see runners, cycling groups, and “wannabes” like me! If you are a serious runner or cyclist, the early morning and/or weekdays are the best time to cross without too many child slow downs.
Many cycling groups continue on the nine miles to the local Poncho’s Mexican Restaurant on the West Memphis side. A round of margarita’s makes a fine way to end a bike ride. That’s a little far for me. I was just as happy to ride back to the Memphis side and make my way down Beale Street. Did I mention we drove our car to Beale Street? That still burns calories, right?!?
What do you think of the Mississippi River’s Big River Crossing? Please share by commenting below!
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