Scenic vistas



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SCENIC VISTAS

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Within a mere 25-mile expanse, the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers come together in a broad floodplain. This confluence area in Southwestern Illinois, north of St. Louis, Missouri, is the backdrop for the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway. The landscape that surrounds the rivers remains natural. The stacking bluffs of the region are a geologic wonder resulting from the region’s active ecological past. Inland seas covered the area 400 million years ago housing coral, sponges, tribolites, fish, snails and clams. These rushing waters sculpted the deep crevices and alternating textures of the bluffs. The grand rocks were ancient sea floors during this time and many of these early creatures can still be found embedded in the limestone. Rumbling earthquakes forced the immense rocks in all different directions, stacking the bluffs into skyscraping sculptures.


The byway is overflowing with scenic vistas and the beauty of the region can be experienced along the byway from points as high as McAdams Peak at Pere Marquette State Park, overlooking the Illinois River valley, to the quiet hiking paths leading visitors to the river’s edge.

Colorful fresh fruit and vegetable markets dot the landscape in summer. The much-heralded fall foliage along the bluffs rounds out the four-seasons of scenic beauty on the byway.


Normal river traffic can also provide some striking scenes of the American river system. Working barges transporting agriculture and other American products on the Mississippi traveling through the Melvin Price Locks and Dam #26, pleasure boats out for the weekend, and the four ferries (Brussels, Grafton, Kampsville and Golden Eagle Ferries) transporting passengers and their cars to historic towns on the opposite shore, all paint a picture of life on America’s great rivers.
Many of the byway communities have scenic qualities unique to their location. Alton is known for its gracious historic homes perched high on the bluffs and antique shops lining the downtown streets within view of the river. Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Grafton’s narrow Main Street bordered by specialty shops, a new marina, flea market, and historic hotel capture the essence of a charming river town. Known as the “village where time stood still,” the village of Elsah is one of the byway’s most picturesque communities.

ALONG THE BYWAY
American Bald Eagles & Migratory Birds

The return of the American Bald Eagle creates an abundance of tourism activity during the winter season. The byway is a mid-migrational staging area (stopping point) for hundreds of bird species using the Mississippi flyway. The flight of America’s national emblem along the mighty Mississippi River connects emotional and physical scenic sensations for visitors to enjoy.


Fall Colors

The heavy forestation of the byway populated with hundreds of tree types creates a showcase of colorful beauty during the autumn. The typical peak season for fall colors occurs the third week of October. Thousands of visitors take relaxing drives and plan getaways during the fall months to drive specific scenic routes or hike trails filled with freshly fallen colorful leaves.


Abundant River Ferries

With five ferries in the region, ferries have become part of the scenic landscape of the region. Visitors can drive their car onto the ferry, and enjoy the ferry ride across the river. During the ferry ride, the visitor gets a close up view of the winding rivers, quaint towns, other river traffic and the wildlife along the river banks. Brussels Free Ferry is located 1 mile west of Grafton and crosses the Illinois River to the Village of Brussels in Calhoun County. The Grafton Ferry is located at the intersection of Main Street (IL Rte. 100) and IL Rt. 3 on the riverfront. The ferry crosses the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to Highway 94 in St. Charles, MO. In Calhoun County, the Kampsville, Winfield and Golden Eagle Ferries transport passengers between Illinois and Missouri.


More Scenic Views

Several scenic overlooks can be found as visitors travel down the byway.  Six miles from Alton along the byway, Clifton Terrace provides visitors with a resting spot to gather information on the bike trails, comfort station and an expansive view of the river.  The Great Rivers Park and Lars Hoffman Gardens offer a peaceful retreat beneath the bluffs for visitors to view the river.



SCENIC POINTS OF INTEREST

The following is an inventory of scenic and natural points of interest, listed by community, in the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway corridor.


ALTON
Clark Bridge

US Hwy 67, Alton  (800) 258-6645

www.VisitAlton.com
The Clark Bridge in Alton, connecting Illinois and Missouri, is a cable-stay bridge, unique in its structure in the United States. The bridge is named for explorer William Clark, who helped lead the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery expedition from 1804 to 1806. The bridge is a 4,620 foot gateway into the region, adding to the overall scenic cityscape of Alton. The construction of the Clark Bridge has been featured as a Nova special on PBS.

Gordon Moore Park Nan Elliott Rose Garden

4550 College Ave., Alton  (618) 463-3580

www.Alton-IL.com
The 1-acre rose garden in Gordon Moore Park features an All-American Rose selection of more than 1600 bushes.  The park is beautiful throughout the spring and summer when the roses are in bloom.  In the fall, besides the late blooming roses, a number of other late blooming flowers dot the walkways in the garden.  The gazebo is the centerpiece of the garden, adding to the scenic beauty.
Melvin Price Locks and Dam
National Great Rivers Museum

#2 Lock & Dam Way, Alton  (618) 462-6979

www.MTRF.org
From atop the Melvin Price Locks & Dam, visitors can experience an expansive view of the Mississippi River and river traffic, eight stories in the air. Visitors can watch barges push through the locks from the Interim Control Room as park rangers explain how the locks & dam system works. While at this location, bird watching can be enjoyed from the esplanade area of the National Great Rivers Museum.

Riverfront Park

#1 Henry St., Alton  (618) 463-3580

www.Alton-IL.com
When Rufus Easton first settled Alton, he decreed that the “riverside be dedicated to ‘commons’ for the people’s use without hindrance.” Riverfront Park is the perfect place to take a stroll and enjoy the view from the river banks of the flowing waters of the Mississippi River. The Riverfront Amphitheater in the park features concerts in the summer and festivals year-round. A pedestrian overpass connects the park with the historic downtown shopping district.

Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

301 Riverlands Way, West Alton  (636) 899-0090

The Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary is a 3,775 acre wildlife sanctuary in West Alton represents one of the natural areas in the region preserved through the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Located across the Clark Bridge, the Riverlands has been designated as an important birding area by the National Audubon Society. The flora and fauna of the wetlands are interpreted along the trails, and visitors will find a wide range of native and migratory bird species. Numerous pull-off points in the sanctuary and at the Lincoln-Shields Recreation Area provide the perfect vantage point for photography of the Clark Bridge, Alton and the bluff line along the river.

Riverview Park

450 Belleview St., Alton  (618) 463-3580

www.Alton-IL.com
On the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, Riverview Park is the centerpiece of the Christian Hill historic district. Featuring a sunken garden abundant with flora and Victorian bandstand that plays host to the Alton Muny Band, visitors and locals alike make the trek to this bluff-top park to delight in the stunning views of the Mississippi River.



CALHOUN COUNTY
Calhoun County Barn & Quilt Tour
(800) 258-6645  www.VisitCalhoun.com
Explore the history of Calhoun County while taking a driving tour of more than 85 quilt blocks displayed on barns and buildings throughout the county. Each quilt block is painted with a pattern from a family quilt representing the history of residents who settled Calhoun. There are three trails to choose from that guide visitors along various points of interest. The quilts on the barns can be seen year-round and can be viewed from the roadway.

ELSAH
Village of Elsah

(800) 258-6645  Elsah.org


Nestled in the bluffs of the Mississippi River, this quaint little village was the first village in its entirety to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Once an important steamboat landing, Elsah is now known for its picturesque scenery found in the stone cottages, tidy gardens and inviting inns lining the streets. Elsah is a favorite spot for byway visitors and photographers looking for a picture perfect glimpse of early Americana, or just a stroll that inspires memories of the past.
Principia College
1 Maybeck Place, Elsah  (618) 374-2131
www.Principia.edu/maybeck

Located high upon the bluffs, Principia College is the only Christian Science College in the nation. Built in the 1930s, the campus and its buildings are a masterpiece of breathtaking scenery and architectural beauty. San Francisco architect Bernard Ralph Maybeck was commissioned to design the master plan for the college campus. The design and construction of Principia was the largest commission in Maybeck’s career and was, in his own words, “his favorite child.” The entire campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can take a self-guided driving tour of Principia College in Elsah and enjoy the scenic views of the Mississippi River from on top of the bluffs.


GODFREY
Olin Nature Preserve at The Nature Institute

2213 S. Levis Lane, Godfrey  (618) 466-9930

www.TheNatureInstitute.org
The Nature Institute is comprised of nearly 300 acres of land surrounding the Olin Nature Preserve on top of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The preserve is one of the largest privately owned nature preserves in the state. Researchers and scientists have identified more than 300 native plant species, more than 150 species of nesting and migratory birds, as well as nesting and den sites for the American Bald Eagle and the endangered Timber Rattlesnake. The preserve contains steep limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, sinkholes, ravines, bedrock outcrops, small streams, a waterfall, upland forest and loess hill prairie. Year-round, visitors to the Nature Institute and its protected lands can engage in wildlife and prairie walks, bird migration hikes and a number of habitat hunting hikes to view the wildlife indigenous to the preserve.

GRAFTON
Pere Marquette State Park

13112 Visitor Center Ln., Grafton  (618) 786-3323


http://dnr.state.il.us/Lands/landmgt/parks/R4/Peremarq.htm
Set in the rolling bluffs just outside Grafton, overlooking the scenic Illinois River, the 8,000-acre Pere Marquette State Park is a treasure-trove of natural and scenic beauty. The scenic drive up the flank of McAdams Peak provides panoramic views of the Illinois River and the valley. The park features five distinct plant communities including prairies, forests, fern-draped limestone outcrops, and spring-fed streams with more than 230 different bird species and mammals. Eight different hiking trails are available ranging from one-quarter mile to five miles long. The scenic trails take hikers to overlooks of the wetlands, underground springs, an Indian burial mound, atop peaks and through dense forest and prairie where wildlife indigenous to the region roam freely.

HARTFORD
Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower

435 Confluence Tower Dr., Hartford  (618) 251-9101

www.ConfluenceTower.com
This 150-foot tower provides visitors with an elevated view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It is of modern design and equipped with both an elevator and staircase rising to three open air viewing platforms at 50, 100 and 150 feet. The tower and panoramic view of the rivers coming together commemorates the point of departure of the Lewis & Clark journey.

KAMPSVILLE
McCully Heritage Project

RR #1, Box 130, Kampsville  (618) 653-4867



www.McCullyHeritage.org
The McCully Heritage Project is located in Kampsville just across the Illinois River via the Hardin Bridge or the Kampsville Ferry. The project offers 940 acres of hills and hollows, 15 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, two ponds for fishing and turtle watching, a wetland with a boardwalk and a hill prairie plot. Wildlife inhabits the forest and grassland regions, and wildflowers and trees highlight the exemplary preservation of the landscape. Visitors can hike and picnic at sites throughout the nature preserve.
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