Visitor's Guide to Grafton, Illinois


Visitors Guide to
Jersey County, Illinois

"A Real American River Town"

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Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, and stretching out for approximately two miles along the Illinois River, is the picturesque river town of Grafton. Founded in 1832 by James Mason, Grafton is the oldest town in Jersey County. Described as a "post office, one store, one tavern, and a number of families" in 1834, the area was being settled as early as 1812 when a blockhouse was built at the confluence for protection.

Grafton’s population reached its peak at approximately 10,000 in the 1850's with employment opportunities coming from the local stone quarries, boat building and commercial fishing. The local limestone was used to build the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, the railroad bridge in Hannibal, and a bridge in Quincy. The Shafer’s Wharf Historic District was one of the largest commercial fishing centers along the Mississippi River in the late 1800's. Live fish were held in large natural pens until they were purchased, after which they were cleaned, salted, packed, and shipped. The Old Boatworks, located south of Main Street, once housed a paint house and a machine shop where paddle wheelers and later PT boats were built. Nationally known Frieman Skiffs were built here between 1850 and 1920. Today, the Old Boatworks hosts many antique and craft stalls and is open on the fourth full weekend of each month from May through October.

Grafton’s main industry today is tourism. The town is at the center of the region’s Bald Eagle watching area and proudly calls itself "The Winter Home of The Bald Eagle." Main Street is lined with restaurants, specialty shops, wineries and wine shops, and other attractions, which makes Grafton a popular stopping place for riders on the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail or visitors in search of fall color and Bald Eagles. Grafton’s restaurants offer its visitors a wide variety of options not only with the types of menus to choose from but also the ambiance of the eatery. Visitors can choose from the simple staples of burgers, sandwiches, and fries to more eclectic fare ranging from gourmet pizzas, steaks, to Creole cooking. And of course with Grafton being a river town one can find fish. Diners can opt to eat on decks overlooking the river, spots on the bluff, in remodeled old buildings, at Pere Marquette State Park, or with aquariums filled with native river wildlife.

During the warmer months visitors can take advantage of the two rivers with boating, canoeing and parasailing opportunities. During the warmer months the Grafton ferry operates from St. Charles County, Missouri to Grafton. Throughout the year there are other river ferries in the Grafton region that provide transportation to Missouri and Calhoun County. Five miles west of Grafton is Pere Marquette State Park, which is Illinois' largest and most popular state park.

If you plan an extended stay, you can find lodging at the area’s hotels, Pere Marquette State Park’s Lodge, or in a variety of Bed and Breakfast establishments. The town sponsors festivals and events in all seasons, such as the Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair, Music in the Park, and Art in the Park which makes Grafton an interesting place to visit any time of the year.

GPS Coordinates
N  38  58.180
W 90  26.11

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