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Report 2041: Driving the Great Mississippi River Road

By BJinNM from New Mexico, Fall 2012

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Page 17 of 33: Day 17-Edwardsville, IL To Cape Girardeau, MO

photo by BJ Firestone

Mississippi River from Bluff Road south of Chester, Ill.

We left Cheryís this morning and got back on River Road heading south. Trying our hardest to avoid the interstates, we left the St. Louis area driving Hwy 157 and picked up Hwy 3. This Highway 3 was not the main River Road (which we had already driven on the way back from Ste. Genevieve) but County Road 3 also known as Bluff Road. It goes very close to the Mississippi River and at times glimpses of the River can be seen. The autumn colors are stunning right now and we never seem to tire of seeing them.

Our first stop was the small town of Maeystown. This was originally a German settlement and retained its German identity until World War II. Many of the buildings are made of limestone, often not using any mortar. We passed several places where there used to be towns, but these were destroyed in the huge 1993 flood. This whole area was hugely impacted by this flood and many towns either moved to higher locations or just have not been re-inhabited.

We stopped at Fort de Chartres which is about four miles north of the town of Prairie du Rocher. Fort de Chartres is a limestone fort built by the French, first of logs in 1720 and then from limestone in 1753-1756. At one time the fort was on the Mississippi River but the River has changed channels and now is about a mile away. The fort was destroyed in 1772 after it was turned over to the British and its ruins were seen and commented on by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

We ate lunch at Lisaís Restaurant in Prairie du Rocher. This town is almost 300 years old, having been settled first in 1722! French in origin, its showpiece is the Creole Cottage just across the street from our restaurant. Unfortunately the Cottage is rarely open except by appointment, or we could have weighed in on the question of whether or not it is haunted.

On down the road, near the town of Kaskaskia, we stopped at the Pierre Menard home. You may remember we visited the Felix Valle house in Ste. Genevieve. Menard and Valle were business partners and the store in Ste. Genevieve was actually known as the Menard-Valle store. The house is in a beautiful, peaceful forest setting near the Kaskaskia River. It has been restored and period pieces of furniture fill each room. Unfortunately our guide had just been hired two weeks ago and knew very little. He was very pleasant though and we did enjoy the house.

One of the things we wanted to do was go back through Chester, Ill. and see the last two Popeye character statues. Luckily for us, the route we chose took us through the town so now each of you can say you know two people who have seen all eight of the current statues. I guess in nine or 10 years we will have to go back through Chester so we can see the last eight, which should be finished by then.

We continued back on Bluff Road, drove through Devilís Backbone State Park, and saw Tower Rock. With the River being so low and the light near dusk, pictures just didnít work well, but it is a 60-foot bluff in the River over towards the Missouri side. At one time it was called the smallest national park in the US.

We got to Cape Girardeau just before dark and are staying in a Drury Inn overnight here. I tried to find a B&B, even writing one four times, but no luck. Oh well. One night in a hotel wonít hurt us.

Tomorrow we hope to take back roads along the Mississippi to New Madrid, MO where we want to go the the local museum and learn more about the 1811-1812 earthquake, the largest ever in the continental US. Then weíll move onto Paducah, Kentucky which is on the Ohio River, not the Mississippi. The Ohio, like the Missouri, is a huge river that feeds into the Mississippi. Across the state line (and the Ohio River) from Paducah is Metropolis, IL and yes, itís that Metropolis.

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