Just 25 miles north of St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi River, the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway is truly a Midwestern treasure with stretches of roadway cradled by the rolling waters of the Mighty Mississippi River and majestic limestone river bluffs. It is here along the byway that three great rivers converge – the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers. The confluence of the rivers was a stopping place for people from all over the country in the early 1800s and continues to draw people to its banks today as a thriving tourist destination.
Begin your journey at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in Hartford at the point of departure for Lewis & Clark. First stop will be the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site to learn about the Corps of Discovery and how they planned for their journey west. Next, tour the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower where you will have a birds-eye view of the confluence of the Missouri & Mississippi rivers from 50, 100 or 150 feet high.
Continue your journey by crossing the Mississippi River and the Clark Bridge into West Alton for a visit to the new Audubon Center at Riverlands, located in the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Pelicans, swans, geese, heron, egrets…migrating waterfowl are abundant along the Mississippi Flyway depending on the season. Your next stop is the largest locks & dam on the Mississippi River. View the expanse of the Mississippi River from eight stories up in the air during a tour of the Melvin Price Locks & Dam #26. Next, learn about the importance of the river system and the role it played in the growth of the region at the National Great Rivers Museum. Learn about the history of Alton, a city founded over 175 years ago, by completing the Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail. Explore the city’s many other historic sites, including the Alton Museum of History and Art, the Robert Wadlow Statue and the legendary Piasa Bird.
Continue up the Great River Road to Elsah, the village where time stood still, and marvel at the numerous buildings that still exist. Most of the houses and building in the village were built in the mid- to late 1800s.
Your final stop will be Grafton. The Grafton riverfront was packed with manufacturing companies, mills, quarries, loading docks, and riverboat traffic in the 1800s. The confluence of the Mississippi & Illinois rivers was a stopping place for people from all over the country in the early 1800s and Grafton continues to draw people to its banks today as a thriving tourist destination with its specialty shops, wineries and attractions.