Some of the St. Louis region's most dramatic scenery is located along the Great River Road north of Alton, Illinois, formally called the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. With the Mississippi River on one side and soaring limestone bluffs on the other, discover the contrasting, yet complementary landscapes. Bike on the trail under the bluffs, walk the grounds of Pere Marquette State Park with its classic log-style lodge, or picnic at the river's edge.
The bluffs, noted in the journals of 17th-century explorers Marquette and Joliet, were home to the fierce Piasa Bird of Indian legend. North of Alton, find an image of the serpent-like bird painted on a stone cliff wall.
In Illinois, enjoy antique hunting in Alton and charming Grafton, where the Illinois River merges with the muddy Mississippi. Cross over these rivers on one of four ferries at Kampsville, Grafton, Brussels and Winfield or stop in the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville to learn more about the prehistoric heritage of the region.
On the way back to St. Louis, stop at the National Great Rivers Museum at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton. Ever wonder how the mighty Mississippi flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and how goods are shipped on barges? The answer is found in outdoor exhibits, including an in-ground model.
At the Corps of Discovery at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in nearby Hartford, Illinois, learn about their expedition to survey the Missouri River. Camp Dubois is where Lewis and Clark stayed before departing on their journey that led them to the Pacific Ocean. Climb to the top of an observation tower for a view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Photo Courtesy: Great River Road Great River Road - Photo by Bill Ash. Photo Courtesy: Illinois Bureau of Tourism