Visitors Guide to the
The National Great Rivers Museum
Melvin Price Locks and Dam, #1 Lock and Dam Way
East Alton, Illinois

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Bike Trail Accessible Scenic View Accessible Wildlife Viewing Accessible Gift Shop Accessible Restrooms Tour Bus Accommadations Bald Eagle Viewing

The National Great Rivers Museum, opened in October of 2003, is one of eleven planned regional visitor centers operated by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Located adjacent to the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, this 12,000-square-foot facility is the result of a collaboration of the Corps and the nonprofit Meeting of the Great Rivers Foundation and tells the story of the Mississippi River. The Museum features state of the art interactive displays and exhibits that help visitors understand the many aspects of the Mississippi River and how it affects our lives. The natural ecosystem of the Mississippi River and how humans interact with it is one of the major themes of the museum. A large model of the bluffs (photo right) of the region is in the center of the museum and provides information on the various wildlife from prairie plants and trees to birds and other animals. An aquarium displays the various species of fish that inhabit the Mississippi River. The mechanics of the river and how soil is made, erosion and how working models of the river help scientists make decisions affecting the river are explained. At one station visitors can estimate how much fresh water their household uses a day and at another visitors can send e-mail postcards from their hometown.
Another theme is how the Mississippi River has been home to many people throughout the ages, from the Mississippian culture that called nearby Cahokia Mounds home to the time when European settlers began arriving. Before the paved highways of today, rivers were the preferred mean of transportation and one display explains how the Mississippi has been used as a highway, not only by humans but by migrating waterfowl, and chronicles the different the types of vessels used from canoes, through keelboats and steamboats, to modern day barges. The Pilot House (photo right,) a simulator based on software actually used to train river pilots at the Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, Kentucky, allows visitors to see what it's like to guide a 1,000-foot tow of barges under a bridge or through a lock. The construction of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam is explained and working models explain how the system of locks and dams make river traffic possible on the Upper Mississippi. Free tours, accessible by wheelchair, of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam are conducted daily at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. Also explained are what causes floods, with emphasis on the Great Flood of 1993, and how the Corps of Engineers fights these destructive acts of nature, and what future strategies are being developed to limit their impact.
The Illinois Esplanade Park is along the entrance road to the Museum and has picnic facilities. The area is especially popular in the winter for Bald Eagle watching as the eagles congregate below the locks and dam looking for easy food. The Confluence Bikeway runs by the complex and connects with Lock and Dam #27 in Granite City and the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site in Hartford to the south and Alton to the west. The Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area is just across the Mississippi via the Clark Bridge. Two video presentations are presented daily in the 105 seat Discovery Theater that is located in the Museum. “Power of the River” tours the river from its source to the mouth exploring the culture that lives along its banks. "Lewis and Clark: A Confluence of Time and Courage” tells the story of the Corps of Discovery from an Army and Native American perspective. The Museum also operates a bookstore and gift shop.

Visiting the National Great Rivers Museum
     Visiting Hours
          Open daily 9 am - 5 pm
          Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day

There is no charge to visit the National Great Rivers Museum.

Directions: The National Great Rivers Museum is located on IL-143 (the Great River Road) south of the Clark Bridge between the communities of Alton and Wood River.

GPS Coordinates

Learn more about the and Alton and Wood River areas.

Meeting of the Rivers Foundation
The Meeting of the Rivers Foundation works with the National Great Rivers Museum’s education and outreach activities.

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