One of my favorite local day drives is along the Great River Road in Illinois. Located along the Mississippi River border between Missouri and Illinois, the Great River Road stretches 550 miles along the Western border of Illinois. We generally explore the area in between Alton and Pere Marquette State Park, which is roughly 30 miles.
Fun Fact: The Great River Road is a spectacular location to view our National Symbol, the Bald Eagle. As Northern waters freeze over, approximately 2,000 bald wintering Bald Eagles will migrate to Illinois during the months of December through March. In early March, the eagles will begin returning to their native nesting territories in central Canada.
As you enter West Alton you will traverse Clark Bridge. Named for explorer William Clark, the Clark Bridge is a cable-stay bridge that opened to the public in 1994 after nearly five years of construction. Admired for its complex and unique design, Clark Bridge is even featured in a NOVA documentary titled, “Super Bridge“. The documentary details the challenges in building the bridge during the Great Flood of 1993.
Audi S3 in Navarro Blue.
During the pandemic stay-at-home orders for our county, my husband and I have both been working from home since mid-March. A drive along the Great River Road was not only an excuse to get out of the house to enjoy the sunshine. We also wanted to have a little high-octane fun driving my husband’s new car.
Perhaps my most favorite feature of the River Road are the limestone bluffs along the Mississippi River. Soaring high above, these wavy bluffs are a living history and testament to ancient water levels millions of years ago.
Learn more about the geology of the River Road: https://www.illinoisriverroad.org/geology/
A very recognizable feature of Alton is the historic flour mill, which was built in 1857. The lower levels of Alton will flood with regularity, and a history of rising water levels can be physically seen along the mill silos. The mill has survived many river floods and several major fires throughout the century.
Originally home to Native Americans for thousands of years, European-Americans settled the Alton region in the early 1800’s. With its close proximity to the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi river systems, Alton would become such a significant river transportation hub that it would outpace the larger city of St. Louis. The competitive result was the formation of the city of Grafton. Now a tourism hot-spot, Grafton, Illinois was originally created by St. Louis businessmen to halt Alton’s expansion.
There is such a rich and complex history in the area, with significance in the Westward Expansion, the American Civil War, the Underground Railroad movement and the region’s heavy participation in industrialization and manufacturing. Nowadays, the Alton-Grafton corridor is a great source for local historic tourism, dining, shopping and bargain-hunting. There are many reasons why I find myself visiting The Great River Road again and again!
Technical Info: Fujifilm x100V