Put down your phones.
Park the car.
Slow down and breathe.
There’s no better place to connect with nature than the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway.
Nature pulled out all the stops when it created the confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. And area naturalists agree.
“Lately it seems that people forget about all the natural beauty that is out here with all the hustle and bustle of daily living,” a spokesperson for The Nature Institute in Godfrey noted. High atop the limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, The Nature Institute offers miles of trails, natural spring-fed waterfalls, naturalist programming and some of the best views in the region.
“Our brains have been trained to care about our phones and other ways to fill our time,” according to The Nature Institute rep. “The beauty we have in the region makes you focus. It’s almost therapeutic and blocks out anything else.”
Recently, a group of visitors came across the view of the Mississippi River from the top of the bluffs at The Nature Institute. Their response was memorable.
“They all got really quiet. It’s such a calming view: watching the flow of the river. There’s nothing much moving but the river and the birds overhead. It’s nice to see that people realize they don’t have to fill the silence with any other sounds. ”
Nature is also on display at the Audubon Center at Riverlands in West Alton. The 10,000 acres of protected land sits directly on the Mississippi River and is home to over 40 percent of the migrating bird populations in the United States. Visitors can spy eagles perched high in the trees with the center’s in-house spotting scopes. Or simply walk to the edge of the waterways to see herons, egrets and Trumpeter Swans gliding along the waters.
Near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, Pere Marquette State Park offers visitors wooded hiking trails and stunning views of the Illinois River. The largest state park in Illinois, Pere Marquette is considered a nature lover’s paradise.
A short ferry ride across the Illinois River, visitors can indulge in the natural wonders of the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Calhoun County. This wildlife habitat sits on the rivers’ edge and is a mosaic of wetlands, open water, bottomland forests and prairies.
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