Sunday, March 1, 2009


The Great River Road is a destination for walkers, bikers, and 'Sunday Drivers' in the St. Louis area. While the Road is entirely within Illinois, it's just across the Missouri River from St. Louis County, giving easy access to Missourians. There is the fairly new, stunning Clark Bridge which was constructed after the 1993 floods which devastated this area. The crossing from Missouri to Illinois is just above the Confluence of three rivers - Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois. The area pictured above is on the Missouri River but is locally referred to as Alton Lake. It's a popular boating area, just north of the Lock and Dam at Alton, Illinios. Also located near the Lock and Dam is a casino (Boat in a Moat) and a huge grain elevator that loads the numerous barges that transport Illinois corn and wheat up and down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. There's also a wonderful ferry, the Golden Eagle, which offers a scenic way to cross the Missouri north of the Lock and Dam.

Sadly, in this picture, you can't see the paved trail which is to the left under the tree overhang. It's a popular and busy site on Spring, Summer, and Fall weekends.

From the river town of Alton, Illinois - an old, river town with hilly, cobbled streets and great antique shops and restaurants (and that Casino) - the Great River Road runs parallel to the Missouri River north to the town of Grafton, Illinois. Paralleling the Road is a wide, paved path for walkers and bikers. Bike rentals are available at both 'ends' of the Road. It's quite a trek, but lovely and scenic any time of year. This area of the river actually freezes over in Winter, holding the barges at the Lock and Dam til the Spring thaw renews river traffic.

Grafton is a rustic gem itself. It's major purpose for existing is for the bikers and walkers who make the trip along the river in all kinds of weather. This lovely little town hosts antique stores, craft shops, restaurants, and bait shops. The cliffs above the river are dotted with elegant mansions having great vistas of the river and the small, lush islands in the area.

North of Grafton is Raging Rivers, a water park, and Pere Marquette State Park. The Park hosts a great lodge with a huge roaring fireplace, renovated hotel rooms and cabins, an indoor pool and sauna, a family style restaurant with a reknowned Sunday brunch, and a life-size chess board. The lodge is a destination for many families on Sundays year round.

Past the river bluffs are great apple orchards where you can pick your own baskets of ripe apples, buy some from roadside stands, or pick up homemade pies and jams. The area also contains some of the most beautiful wooded scenery anywhere.

If you take this trek, look for the mythical Piasa Bird (pronounced Pie -a - saw) on a cliff facing the river. Stop to read the legend of the Piasa Bird and to see the high water marks from the 1993 floods. The Confluence area which is normally about 1 mile across grew to 7 miles across during the vast flooding of 1993. You'll still see an occasional hint of the flood - a toy stuck in the top of a huge tree or a gutted building. Most evidence of the flooding is now gone, but those of us who lived here remember it quite well.

To understand how much water there was and how vast the flooding was, drive to the base of the St. Louis arch and look up to the top. The Arch is on the banks of the Mississippi. During the flooding of 1993 when the flood gates at the Arch were closed, one could watch barges floating down the river at the same height as the Arch - about 43 feet above street level and only 1 foot below the top of the flood gate! Cool but scary!!

Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude.

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