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Report 2041: Driving the Great Mississippi River Road

By BJinNM from New Mexico, Fall 2012

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Page 15 of 33: Day 15-Edwardsville, IL to Alton, IL To Grafton, IL

photo by BJ Firestone

Bluffs along the Mississippi River near Grafton

We are still staying with Chery but spent the day along the River Road. First we visited the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site. It was here or near here (no one is quite sure exactly where), that William Clark and his men wintered while Merriweather Lewis went back and forth to St. Louis to gather supplies and more men so that the expedition could start in May of 1804. The area was on the duBois River, but both the Mississippi and the duBois have changed courses so often that the exact location is unknown. The State Historic Site has a rebuilt fort based on what Clark and his men would have stayed in. There are actors in period costumes telling about what is happening at the Fort in first person. One was very good but another just wanted to talk to us about our cameras and lens!

We got back on River Road and drove up to Alton. Alton is about the same size as Edwardsville (27,000) and was at one time a huge manufacturing center. It, like many small towns across the country, is trying to survive in these times and has a lot of history going for it to help bring in tourists. It is full of lovely Victorian homes, was a hotbed of antislavery journalism, hosted one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and also was the home of the World’s tallest man Robert Wadlow who at 8 feet 11.1 inches and weighing 439 pounds beat out the competition easily. Outside of Alton is a cliff-side mural of the Piasa Bird. The Piasa Bird is a mythical, man eating bird known to the Illini Indians and whose image in an earlier cliff-side mural was seen by Joliet and Marquette when they first came down the Mississippi.

Continuing on River Road we drove from Alton to Grafton. Here the River Road runs right next to the Mississippi and is bordered on the other side by huge bluffs. It is really a magnificent drive!

This evening we went with Chery and two of her good friends to Cleveland-Heath, a restaurant in Edwardsville that was voted the best new restaurant in the St. Louis area. Good food, good company, good night!

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