"The Mother Road" was established on November 11, 1926, and ultimately stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. Starting in Chicago, westbound travelers traversed a series of towns in Illinois before arriving in St. Louis.
Heading westbound in Missouri, the route traveled through these cites and towns:
Historic U.S. Route 66 Byway in Missouri
Route 66 across Missouri stretched 317 miles and connected a variety of large cities and small towns, traversing rolling hills and valleys.
The Mother Road followed much of the Kickapoo, or Osage, Trail, an Indian trail that later became the Old Wire Road.
Like other Route 66 segments, the actual alignment varied over the years as engineering improvements were constructed.
We've driven much of Route 66, including multiple segments across Missouri, and visits to Joplin.
A popular stop on Route 66 today is the city of Joplin, in southern Jasper County and northern Newton County in the southwestern corner of Missouri. Joplin is very near the Missouri-Kansas state line and is about 7 miles east of Galena, Kansas.
Early view of Main Street in Joplin ... Heart of the Tri-State Mining District
Joplin is the largest city in Jasper County, with a population of over 50,000 residents and over 175,000 in the Joplin Metro area. It is located on Interstate 44, Interstate 49 and Historic Route 66. The area is also served by Joplin Regional Airport.
Joplin was established in 1873 and expanded significantly from the wealth created by the mining of zinc. The city gained travelers as Route 66 passed through it in the 1920s. "Joplin, Missouri" is among the lyrics to Bobby Troup's legendary song, immortalizing the city among others on the famous Mother Road.
The people of Joplin are tough, and resilient, as evidenced by their response and recovery from the massive EF-5 tornado which devastated parts of Joplin on May 22, 2011.
Today, Joplin is an energetic, thriving city. There are a number of attractions and things to see that are popular with residents and Route 66 travelers, including these:
Read about these and other attractions and things to do at the Visit Joplin Website.
Route 66 Mural Park
Shown here is the mural in downtown Joplin, Missouri at Pearl Brothers Hardware Store. This is only one of many murals painted throughout the downtown area.
The Route 66 Mural Park in Joplin features two nostalgic murals and an oversized 45-record imprint of "Get Your Kicks on Route 66". The upper mural is called "Cruisin’ into Joplin", and showing a vintage Buick arriving in Joplin on Route 66 from the west.
The lower mural is called "The American Ribbon", tracing the route of the Mother Road from Chicago to Los Angeles. Jutting out in three dimensions from the mural is a mock 1964 red Chevrolet Corvette. This is a favorite stop for Rouge 66 travelers in Missouri for photo-ops! The mural is located at 619 S. Main Street in Joplin.
Known as the largest continuously flowing natural waterfall in Missouri, Grand Falls is a must-stop-photo-op for visitors. Located on Shoal Creek, just a few minutes downstream from Wildcat Park, “The Falls” plunges 12 feet down a 163-foot-wide ledge of solid chert before crashing into jagged crags and then flowing peacefully to the south.
The falls are located at 5400 South Riverside Drive Joplin, MO 64804
I-44 East Welcome Center
This official Missouri Welcome Center is located at Interstate I-44 East, Mile Marker 2. Visitors will find tourism brochures, maps and highway information, and a very knowledgeable staff. They will answer tourism related questions, provide driving directions to attractions, and offer suggestions on what to see and do in Joplin and throughout Missouri.
Picnic facilities, a playground, vending machines and pet walking areas are available. And don't miss a photo-op at the "license plate wall"!
"Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight" Mural
Shortly after an EF5 tornado demolished many structures in Joplin in 2011, a sign of hope appeared on one building that had withstood the storm. More than 300 community volunteers came together to help award-winning muralist Dave Lowenstein paint an image of beauty amid the brokenness, a message of optimism for the city’s future.
A quote from Joplin native Langston Hughes is included in the mural: “In time of silver rain the butterflies lift silken wings to catch a rainbow sky and trees put forth new leaves to sing in joy beneath the sky.”
The mural is located at the northwest corner of 15th and Main Streets. Read about the many other Joplin murals at the Visit Joplin Website.
|Homes in the Murphysburg Residential Historic District ... Joplin Historical Trail
Downtown Joplin Scenes
The JOMO Mural ... Welcome to Downtown Joplin, Missouri
|The "I am Joplin" mural downtown
|Spiva Center for the Arts
|Circa 1925 Joplin Memorial Hall
|Frisco Greenway Trail
The Praying Hands Memorial
The Memorial was sculpted over a period of several years by local artist J.E. "Jack" Dawson, and dedicated in April of 1974. Its size is impressive: 220,000 pounds of steel and concrete, 32 feet high, sitting on top of a 40-foot-high man-made hill. Carved in stone in front of the statue are six simple words: “Hands in prayer. World in peace.”Each year, thousands of visitors and locals visit the giant hands. The Memorial is located in King Jack Park, on Dawson Drive, in Webb City, in northeast Joplin not far off Route 66. Free and open to the public.
Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center
Located at the confluence of Silver and Shoal Creeks, the center, operated by the State of Missouri, showcases plants and animals found on the chert glades and surrounding aquatic and woodland savanna habitats.
Read more about Wildlife Glades
Scenes Just East of Joplin ... In Carthage
One of the first concrete-paved portions of Missouri’s highway system was the stretch of road west of Carthage to Joplin, laid in 1920. In 1926, this route became part of Route 66.
Along the route today travelers find Kellogg Lake, Powers Museum, Carthage Municipal Park, Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre, 66 Drive-In Theatre (below) and the 1939 Boots Court (right).
|Historic Boots Court, Route 66, Carthage
Currently undergoing an extensive restoration
|66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage, Missouri
|Red Oak II, northeast of Carthage
More Information & Resources about Joplin
We have included below a sampling of our collection of vintage travel postcards dealing with Joplin and Route 66.
What was Route 66 like in its earlier years, as visitors drove around Joplin? What did all the service stations, motels and public buildings look like when they were new?
What did the traveling public experience on the Mother Road? We wonder such things when we travel Route 66 today.
Those earlier times in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were not always captured on film. But the use of colorful postcards was common in those decades.
These portray the historic road in its prime and help us to visualize, and appreciate, "earlier times" as we drive Route 66 today in Joplin.
|Little King's Hotel Court
|Koronado Hotel Kourts
|Bob Miller's Restaurant
|Ko Ko Motel
|The Keystone Hotel