un jour / 31 miles / une heure une minute
Here, the Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers meet to form a 35,000-acre floodplain. The Mississippi, a working river, is also an environmental treasure. Historic 18th Century river towns, islands, bars, points and bends create beautiful scenery beneath limestone bluffs that are covered by forests extending over nearly 20,000 acres.
9:00 - 4.4 miles / 8 minutes - 9:08
The National Great Rivers Museum features state-of-the-art interactive displays and exhibits to help visitors understand the many aspects of the Mississippi River and how it affects our lives.
10:08 - 1.4 miles / 2 minutes - 10:11
With a very involved Civil War History, Alton has plenty of stories to share, one being told by the old Federal prison where Confederate prisoners were held. Today, visitors will be able to see a portion of the prison that is still standing, as well as the Memorial that was erected for the hundreds of Confederate soldiers who were buried in a mass grave nearby.
10:11 - 0.4 miles / - 10:12
It has been observed by many travel editors that the Village of
Elsah is the town that time forgot. This quaint and tiny village
upriver from Alton is filled with several dozen homes, most built
in the mid to late 1800s. Unlike most American towns, Elsah seemed
to freeze in time. No true modern buildings have been erected, so
driving through Elsah is like stepping back 100 years. The
churches, homes, and buildings are all authentic, and the entire
village is on the National Historic Register. Be sure to save some
film or videotape for Elsah.
10:12 - 0.1 miles / - 10:12
Continuing upriver is the town of Grafton. As the oldest town in the county, historic buildings are located throughout the city. The scenic byway is "main street" for this bustling little community. Shops, restaurants, and an authentic 1800s' hotel provide visitors with things to do, see, and enjoy. Grafton also offers a variety of family entertainment, including a nearby water park and evening outdoor musical amphitheater. Grafton offers boat rides, parasailing, and horseback riding, too. It is at Grafton that the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers meet. Islands punctuate the twin river confluence. Large pleasure crafts can be seen making the transit from Chicago and Michigan downriver to the Caribbean.
10:12 - 0.0 miles / - 10:12
The legendary Piasa Bird painting is carved into the limestone bluffs over the Mississippi River in Alton. It stands as a reminder of what first greeted Louis Joliet and Father Marquette as they explored the area in 1673. When they were nearing the Illinois River, the two explorers described seeing a painted "flying reptilian dragon" on the rockface over the river. The legendary Piasa Bird was said to have been first painted into the rock by an ancient Indian tribe living near the river. The original archaeological find was moved from place to place as dirt and rock were moved to facilitate the city's growth. The Piasa Bird that stands today has been refurbished with new paint and is visible as far away as the Clark Bridge.
10:17 - 10.9 miles / 21 minutes - 10:39
Take a free ride across the Illinois River (it is okay to turn around and come right back!) Get a feel of the river under the wheels of your vehicle. Nearby is the Mark Twain Wildlife Refuge, the seasonal home for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds on the Mississippi Flyway. (American Bald Eagles, herons, owls, pelicans, geese, duck including many unusually rare species). Free of charge, restrooms available. About 45 minutes round-trip, but note that on sunny weekends the wait can be up to two hours.
10:54 - 13.7 miles / 27 minutes - 11:21