Attractions along the
Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway
The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area coverage includes the Illinois counties of Jersey, Calhoun, and Madison. A wide range of places to see and things to do awaits visitors to the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway region. If you’re interested in history the area’s Lewis & Clark and Cahokia Mounds State Historic Sites are just a few sites that can be found. The same can be said for nature lovers who will find plants, animals and landscapes at Pere Marquette State Park, Horseshoe State Park, the Audubon Center at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and a large number of other natural areas. Bikers, joggers, and walkers can travel on the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail that winds it way right along the Mississippi River. Get a taste of arts and culture at the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton.These are just a few of the attractions that can be found in the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway.
The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway begins in the town of Hartford. The Hartford/Wood River area is Lewis & Clark country because it was here that those great explorers began their journey in 1804. Farther north in East Alton are the Melvin Price Locks and Dam and the National Great Rivers Museum.
Alton is the largest city in the Scenic Byway area. Alton is the home of several Civil War related sites, as well as the Alton Museum of History and Art, Robert Wadlow (the world's tallest man,) and several historic districts. In Godfrey, visitors can find 300 acres of tall-grass prairie and woodlands at the Olin Nature Preserve. Crossing the Mississippi via the Clark Bridge leads to the Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area. Just northwest of the Alton Visitors Center is the start of the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail.
The Vadalabene Trail is approximately 20 miles of level paved trail that parallels the Great River Road and the center portion of the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway and traverse through the river towns of Elsah and Grafton, and ends at Pere Marquette State Park. Riders, walkers, and joggers will see prairie wildflowers and flowering trees during the spring, brilliant foliage in the fall and Bald Eagles soaring over the river and bluffs, or floating down the river on chunks of ice during the winter.
Northwest of Alton, the Scenic Byway travels to the river towns of Elsah and Grafton. The entire town of Elsah has been designated a historic district and is home to a number of Bed and Breakfasts. Grafton is situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and is known as "The Winter Home of The Bald Eagle" due to the number of good eagle watching sites in its proximity.
Calhoun County lies west of the Scenic Byway and is almost completely surrounded by water. The 4 ferries connecting Calhoun County with the rest of the region provide an interesting mode of transportation. Sites in the area include the Brussels Historic District, the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge and the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville.
Pere Marquette State Park is Illinois' largest state park and is famous for the beauty of its fall colors and as a home for bald eagles in the winter. The park offers its visitors diverse recreational and educational opportunities that encompass the past, present and future. The park features a Visitors Center,10 hiking trails that traverse a variety of terrains, and horseback riding. The park is excellent for nature enthusiasts and is a prime Bald Eagle watching spot.
To the north and east of the Scenic Byway are the towns of Jerseyville and Otterville. Visit the Historic Courthouse Square, the Fulkerson Mansion, and the Cheney House in Jerseyville. The Hamilton Primary School, the first integrated school in the country, is in Otterville.
In the Southern Madison County area travelers will find the remains of a prehistoric Native American civilization at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Horseshoe Lake State Park is known for fishing, hunting and its excellent bird watching opportunities. Route 66 passed through Edwardsville and Granite City, and Collinsville is the site of the world’s largest catsup bottle. There are several local history museums and numerous sites and districts on the National Register of Historic Places.