Meeting of the Great Rivers
Time and again visitors are drawn to America's rivers longing for adventure, a sense of the past, and days of leisurely vacations and relaxing drives.
Return to a time of simplicity and American values along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway where the Mighty Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers converge. The 33-mile Meeting of the Great Rivers Byway begins in Hartford at the intersection of Illinois Route 3 and New Poag Road. The byway winds west and north via Illinois Routes 3, 143 and 100. Illinois Route 100 leads you through Alton and bends along the forested river bluffs, approximately 25 miles, to its ending point in Grafton at Pere Marquette State Park.
Delightful detours can be found all along Rte. 100 as you explore the quaint byway communities of Godfrey, Elsah and Grafton. The designation of the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway has brought national attention to the spectacular scenery, archeological finds, historic happenings, cultural experiences and memorable recreation. Recently, the byway was named as one of the "Seven Wonders of Illinois".
Taking a drive along the byway and its communities is a new encounter each time you the region. We hope that you enjoy the ride through the Great Rivers & Routes region along mile after magnificent mile of one of Illinois' most scenic byways.
Located at the confluence of three great American rivers – the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri – the region is picturesque with stunning bluffs, quaint villages, rolling countryside, abundant wildlife and charming residents. The cities and towns "all around Alton" are part of Northern Madison, Jersey and Calhoun counties, as well as the 33-mile Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway.
Each byway community has scenic and historic qualities unique to their location. Alton is known for its gracious historic homes perched high on the bluffs, abundant historic sites and antique shops lining the downtown streets within view of the river. Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, Grafton's narrow Main Street bordered by specialty shops, a marina, flea market, and historic hotel capture the essence of a charming river town. Known as the "village where time stood still," the village of Elsah is one of the byway's most picturesque communities.
Come explore our communities and take the time to experience the river!
Often referred to as the "village where time stood still," get ready to turn back the clock and take a leisurely stroll through the Village of Elsah. Nestled in the bluffs of the Mississippi River, this quaint little village was the first village in its entirety to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Once an important steamboat landing, Elsah is better known today for its picturesque beauty, stone houses and lush gardens.
Hartford sits at the southernmost part of the byway and is often a starting point for many byway travelers. More than 200 years ago, Lewis & Clark made the village of Hartford their winter home as they established their first camp, Camp River Dubois. It was here that the men prepared for their westward journey. At the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, it was here that the Corps of Discovery departed on May 14, 1804.
Nearly 100 years after Lewis & Clark's departure, the village of Hartford was settled as a rail, river, road and commercial community, the type of industrial center which remains today. Visitors to Hartford will want to be sure that they take the time to explore the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. This 14,000 square foot facility is dedicated to telling the story of Lewis and Clark in Illinois and at Camp River Dubois. The museum consists of six exhibit galleries, a theater, a full-scale 55-foot "cutaway keelboat" and a fortified encampment. The museum is the largest heritage site dedicated to Lewis & Clark east of the Rocky Mountains.
In 2010, the village will open its newest attraction - the Lewis & Clark Confluence Memorial Tower. From platforms at 50, 100 and 150 feet in the air, visitors will be able to look down on the confluence of the Missouri & Mississippi Rivers, where the journey began.
The history of Wood River dates back to the early 1800s and the encampment of Lewis & Clark. On May 14, 1804, the River Dubois or the Wood River marked the point of departure for the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery and the journey westward. Over time, the rivers have changed their course, and the small Wood River ceases to exist, yet the community still lives on.
Settlers to Wood River began arriving in the early 1800's, but it was not until the early 1900's that the city really started to see growth. In 1906, Standard Oil Company chose Wood River as a location for a new refinery. As word of the refinery spread, spectators and workers began to move into the region.
By 1920, the U.S. Census showed Wood River to be the fastest growing town in the United States.
The Wood River Heritage Council has worked diligently to preserve the town's past at the Wood River Museum and Visitor's Center. It is here that you will find exhibits on the Wood River massacre of 1814, Olde Downtown, the Flood of 1915, the World's largest swimming pool, and the impact of Standard Oil on this growing community. Another historic stop is the Vaughn Cemetery on Illinois Route 111 where Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War soldiers and Wood River massacre victims are buried.
In addition to exploring the town's history, Wood River has much to offer visitors interested in putting around or making a big splash. The Belk Park Golf Course is one of the premier golf courses in the state of Illinois welcoming more than 50,000 visitors a year to enjoy 18-holes in this picturesque park. For families looking to cool off on a hot summer day, the Aquatic Center water recreation complex features a wading pool, Olympic size lap pool, two 4-story high water slides, diving wells and a volleyball court.