Visitor's Guide to Jersey County, Illinois

    Visitors Guide to Jersey County, Illinois

"A Surprising Place to Visit"
Custom Search

Although Jersey County has been inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans, the history of modern day Jersey County began when Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette became the first Europeans to set foot in Illinois in 1673 at a spot just north of Grafton. By virtue of the Joliet and Marquette expedition France governed Illinois until it was ceded to the British after the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. During the Revolutionary War Illinois was captured by George Rogers Clark and his “Long Knives” and Illinois became a county of Virginia. American settlers began arriving in Jersey County after the War of 1812 attracted by the excellent timberlands, unsurpassed soil that yielded excellent crops, and easy access to the transportation provided by the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Communities like Grafton and Jerseyville began forming in the 1830s and Jersey County was organized as a separate county in 1839.

Today, with approximately 26,000 residents, some may view Jersey County as just another of the many rural farming counties up central and southern Illinois. But Jersey County is located on the northern portion of the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway, has the Great River Road meandering along its western border, and is home to Pere Marquette State Park, the state’s largest and most visited park. Jersey County offers visitors excellent opportunities to get in touch with nature, whether it is its extraordinary fall beauty along the bluffs lining the Mississippi River or on the back roads, fruit orchards in the summer and early fall, and bald eagles in the winter.

Taking advantage of its unique geographical location at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, Jersey County offers an abundance of water related activities. A number of public boat ramps and marinas provide access to Alton Lake, the large body of water created by the Melvin Price Locks and Dam just to the south. The river town of Grafton provides rentals of all types of watercraft from jet skis to canoes and pontoon boats. Anglers can search for their favorite fish in both the main river channels or in back water lakes and sloughs.

Outdoor activities aren’t limited to water sports. The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail parallels the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway and the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers until it ends at Pere Marquette State Park. The Park offers 12 miles of hiking trails of varying difficulties through woodland and prairie habitats and along the tops of the bluffs. Bird watching in the area is excellent with the area home to hundreds of species including the bald eagle, white pelicans, and an assortment of owls.

Jersey County offers its visitors unique shopping adventures. Both Grafton and Jerseyville are noted for an abundance of antique and specialty shops. Equal opportunities await the culinary adventurers with establishments ranging from dining in a Victorian atmosphere, eating fresh fish while watching their brethren in tableside aquariums, to having lunch or dinner on a deck overlooking the river. For those planning an extended stay, Jersey County has a large number of unique Bed & Breakfasts.

The communities and organizations of Jersey County stage events and activities throughout the year that highlight the area’s strengths and heritage. In June the Great Rivers Towboat Festival in Grafton lets visitors board the towboats seen transporting goods up and down the two rivers. Augusts features the Tri-County Antique Club’s Olden Days that highlights the rural heritage of the area. The Fulkerson Mansion just north of Jerseyville hosts the annual Jersey County Victorian Festival. This popular event features a daily Civil War battle reenactment, living history demonstrations, and a lot of good wholesome fun. Home For the Holidays in December features tours of the historic houses in Elsah, a village that is one of the few communities placed on the National Register of Historic Place in its entirety.

Events, nature, history, the Great River Road, the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers: all this and more make Jersey County “A Surprising Place to Visit!”

Explore these Great River Road Communities
in Jersey County, Illinois
Elsah Grafton Jerseyville
Pere Marquette
State Park
Sam Vadalabene
Bike Trail
River Ferries
of Events