The Piasa Bird
The original Piasa Bird was a petroglyph (a prehistoric carving,
usually pictorial, gouged into a rock surface). According to legend,
in the years long before the Europeans arrived in the Meeting of the
Great Rivers area, the Piasa Bird was a bird-like creature of such
great size that it could easily carry off a human and terrorized the
tribes of the area. The modern renditions of the Piasa began in the
1920s and the current Piasa Bird is a 48-by-22 foot painting
situated on a rock face of the Mississippi bluffs just north of
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Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Giant earthen mounds, the remains of a prehistoric Native American
civilization, are preserved at this 2,200-acre site World Heritage Site. An
interpretative center that includes "The Mirrored Box,” tours, and events
help visitors explore the fascinating culture that disappeared around 1400
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to the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway Area, where
the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers meet. Here you'll find
limestone bluffs, forested parks and wildlife areas, real river towns,
ferries that ply the rivers, and friendly and gracious people.
The Scenic Byway begins near the towns of Hartford and Wood River. This is
Lewis & Clark country
with a new interpretive site at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in
Hartford which features the Cutaway Keelboat and a replica of the Corps of
Discovery's winter camp. Just to the south in Collinsville is Cahokia Mounds
State Historical Site with an interpretative center, tours and events that
help visitors explore the giant earthen mounds and fascinating culture and
remains of a prehistoric Native American civilization that disappeared
around 1400 A.D. Alton is the metropolitan hub of the area and is rich in
history with monuments and attractions to the Civil War. Alton is a major
antique center with over fifty antique shops, most which are situated in the
riverfront district. Alton is also the site of the Alton Visitors Center
which gives visitors a wealth of information to better explore the region.
The Sam Vadalabene Bike
Trail, a twenty mile paved trail, parallels the Great River Road beneath towering limestone
bluffs and past the picturesque
towns of Elsah and Grafton. Elsah is one of only a handful of
communities in the country to be
placed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places.
Grafton, the "Winter Home of the
Bald Eagle," is becoming an attraction of its own with its
shops, restaurants, seasonal events, and river
ferries. Just north of Grafton is Pere
Marquette State Park with a wealth of recreational activities
including hiking trails, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and
interpretative programs. Farther
north travelers can cross the Illinois River on a free
ferry operated by the state of Illinois to the village of Kampsville, home
to the Center of American Archeology, which researches the remains of
Native American habitation as far back as 8,000 B.C.
region contains areas
of interest not directly adjacent to the Scenic Byway. West of Grafton and
Pere Marquette is Calhoun County. Situated on a peninsula, Calhoun County
is almost an island and has retained the unique charm of a small but
active agricultural community. Its rural villages and peach and apple
orchards are serviced by three river ferries that cross the Mississippi and
Illinois rivers. To the northeast is Jerseyville with its 19th century courthouse
and the antique shops in its historic downtown district.
Whatever your interest, you’re
sure to find it in the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area. At greatriverroad.com
our commitment is to provide visitors with the most complete and up to date information on
the attractions, events, and things to do in the area.