There’s something magical about seeing the great Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers meet.
Not only beautiful to behold, there’s also a realization and appreciation for the rich history of the land. Alton, Illinois, with its unique history and stunning landscape, captivated me.
A Scenic Byway Indeed
Driving into Alton, along the bank of the Mississippi River, we understood why they call it a “Scenic” Byway. What an absolutely breathtaking drive, to see the bluffs on one side and the expansive river on the other. Later that day, we drove through several charming riverfront communities, and had lunch right on the sparkling water at The Loading Dock restaurant in Grafton.
Scenic overlook of the mighty Mississippi River
Outdoor Activities at Pere Marquette State Park
Pere Marquette State Park greeted us with a fantastic visitors center, which gave us context for what plants, animals and trails we were about to see in the park. We ventured forth onto the trails, which were well marked, and we saw plenty of eagles cruising on the warm air currents. I also got to ride a beautiful horse by the name of “Whisky.” Beautiful nature and majestic creatures – what’s not to love?
Astride a horse named Whisky at Pere Marquette State Park
Way Better Than a History Class
The best way to learn about history is when you can see it in action and be really hands on. Both Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center left me with so much fascinating information.
The impressive Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has to be seen in person to fully appreciate. While mounds of dirt might not sound like much on paper, it’s truly amazing to see what the native Mississippians built as part of their ancient civilization. It took more than 150 years of moving earth to make some of these mounds! It’s hard to believe that between 700 and 1400, the tract of land had a massive city on it, the size of present-day London. The exhibit at the mounds is really engaging for adults and children and shows many the artifacts that were found around the mounds indicating the city’s existence. There are also movies and interactive displays about the Mississippian people’s lives.
Our next stop, The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, was an absolute treat. We were greeted at the center by fun and fascinating museum displays inside and learned about the journey that the explorers made. Outside, there was a live reenactment of their base Camp DuBois, complete with soldiers in uniform practicing drills and firing cannons, company men cooking by a fire exactly as they would have in 1804, Native American tents and so forth. What an incredibly fun way to learn about the expedition.
Between the natural beauty and some beautifully put together exhibits at the area’s historic sites, Alton, Illinois, is a fantastic destination for history buffs and nature lovers of all ages.
Reenactment of 1800s life at The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center