Along the Mighty Mississippi / Travel the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway

One of the best trips available to anyone wanting to explore our country’s history are the many scenic byways found east and west and everywhere in between. One of the most popular of these highways runs along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River and makes a great family trip back into history.

In southwestern Illinois, locals as well as tourists have a very unique trail to explore. For thirty-three scenic miles is The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route which was made an Illinois State Scenic Byway on June 8, 1998. There are no fees along the byway proper and ferries on the byway are free.

great river route illinois

Great River Route

The Historic Mississippi

All through history, the Mississippi River impacted numerous lives: the Dakota, Chippewa, and Hopewell societies; early French voyagers; African-Americans looking for opportunity on the Underground Railroad; and a lot of people more. Through its beguiling stream towns and metropolitan urban communities, notable locales and social antiques, today’s Great River Road still connects communities, individuals, and history.

The Great Rivers Meet

This stretch where the Mississippi River meets the Missouri is an historic site. The Mississippi, a working waterway, is additionally an ecological fortune. Memorable eighteenth century waterway towns, islands, bars, focuses, and twists make excellent view underneath limestone feigns that are secured by timberlands reaching out over about 20,000 sections of land.

Following are just a few of the many attractions and historic sites along and near to the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route.

meeting of the great rivers scenic highway

Great Rivers highway north of Alton, Illinois

The National Great Rivers Museum

Opened in October 2003, this excellent and well laid out museum is committed to telling the story of everyday life on the Mighty Mississippi River and how it has molded our society, history, economy, biology and individuals. The National Great Rivers Museum has more than 20 interactive displays concentrating on the cycles of the waterway, nature, scow activity, water utilization and plenty more.

A plethora of history relating to life on the waterway and a complete explanation of why we need locks on the river for efficient transportation. The museum offers reasons why all should take an interest in the preservation of our country’s rivers. The National Great Rivers Museum is located at 2 Lock and Dam Way, Alton, Illinois.

Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower

The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower is the gateway to the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. The northern tower features a visitors center. When you’re at the visitors center you can plan your thirty-three mile journey down the scenic byway. The visitors center features videos and graphic displays that tell stories of history, wildlife and communities all along this historic and scenic path

The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower is located in Hartford, Illinois. This is two miles from the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower was built in commemoration of the historic expedition to the northwest and the Pacific. The tower which is 180 feet tall offers visitors three viewing areas at the 50, 100 and 150 foot levels. These connect the two towers that were built to represent Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The location of the towers is at 435 Confluence Tower Dr., Hartford, Illinois.

Wood River Museum and Visitors Center

The Wood River Heritage Council has worked diligently to preserve the town’s history. The Wood River Museum and Visitors Center is the place to visit to learn all about area events such as the Wood River massacre of 1814, the Flood of 1915, Olde Towne. and the history of Standard Oil’s impact on the community. The museum is located at 40 W. Ferguson Avenue, Wood River, Illinois.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles found on the links below…

A Drive on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Scenic Byway

Michigan’s Copper Harbor Scenic Byway

meeting of the great rivers map

Meeting of the Great Rivers Map


Pere Marquette Cross

French explorer Louis Joliet and Jesuit priest Father Jacques Marquette led the first French expedition down the Mississippi River in June of 1673 in search of the Pacific Ocean.

Their expedition followed the Mississippi River south to the mouth of the Arkansas River. When reaching that point the Native Americans they encountered told them they were only about ten days away from the Gulf of Mexico. The expedition leaders decided to turn around for home lest they be captured by either the Indians or the Spaniards.

There were positive things that came from the expedition although finding the Pacific Ocean was not one of them. Marquette and Joliet were credited with establishing relations with the Native American tribes that they met along the way. What they learned of the area eventually led to the French taking possession of Louisiana.

lewis & clark towers harford illinois

Lewis & Clark Towers, Hartford, Illinois

Cut from a solid piece of dolomite, the Pere Marquette Cross is seven feet six inches high. It is located on a ledge of a bluff that overlooks the Illinois River. Two flights of dolomite stairs lead from the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail to the cross. The Pere Marquette monument is located 4 1/2 miles east of the main Park entrance on the Great River Road.The location is 13122 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, Illinois.

More Information

The north end of this scenic route is at the Pere Marquette State Park. The southern end of the route is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

For more information about planning a trip along the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route, check out the websites listed below.

Meeting of the Great Rivers Visitors Guide

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Route map image courtesy of the Dept of Transportation, Great River Route Highway Photo and Lewis & Clark photo courtesy of the Federal Highway Dept. Great Rivers Highway photo north of Alton, Illinois courtesy Kbh3rd, CC 3.0 license.)

Drive Wisconsin’s Picturesque Lake Superior Scenic Byway

The State of Wisconsin features several scenic byways that will help make your trip unforgettable and also offer some great photo opportunities.

Wisconsin’s newest scenic byway is in the very picturesque northern part of the state along the shores of Lake Superior on the lake’s western end.

lake superior scenic byway map

Wisconsin lake Superior Scenic Byway route

Wisconsin’s Scenic Byway Program

The Wisconsin Scenic Byway Program began in 1999 when a new state law directed the state Department of Transportation to develop and administer a scenic byway program.

Today, there are a total of four Wisconsin Scenic Byways with the addition of the newest one, the Wisconsin lake Superior Scenic Byway. The other three scenic byways are the Great River Road, the Lower Wisconsin River Road and the Door County Coastal Byway.

The program is a cooperative effort between local communities and WisDOT to identify and promote state highway corridors with scenic and/or historical attributes that provide travelers an enjoyable visual, educational and recreational experience. A scenic byway is at least 30 miles in length and is other than an Interstate Highway.

lake superior shoreline

Lake Superior shoreline

Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway

The Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway  is a 70-mile route of State Hwy. 13 from U.S. Hwy. 2 just west of Ashland to County H in Douglas County. This 70 mile route is beautiful with a variation of forested areas and stunning coastal views. 

On April 18, 2013, a ribbon cutting ceremony at StageNorth Theater in Washburn made the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway official. Among the many sites to visiti and enjoy on this scenic byway is access to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the Northwest Wildlife Refuge Lands and the Chequamegon National Forest.

The route of the Wisconsin lake Superior Scenic Byway includes the cities of Bayfield and Washburn; the Red Cliff Tribal lands; the towns of Barksdale, Bayfield, Bayview, Bell, Clover, Cloverland, Orienta, Port Wing and Russell; and the unincorporated areas of Cornucopia, Herbster and Port Wing.

Apostle Islands

The Apostle Islands Lakeshore in Wisconsin is a very popular tourist destination for summer time tourists. Here you will see beautifully forested islands and one hundred year old lighthouses. In all there are eight historic lighthouses on the Apostle Islands. Some of the popular ways to explore the islands is by hiking and by kayak.

Wildlife at this National Lakeshore includes black bears and bald eagles. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is administered by the National Park Service. For more detailed information see website

In Bayfield you’ll want to stop by at the Apostle Island National Lakeshore Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is located inside the old county courthouse. The Visitor Center offers exhibits, audio visual programs and plenty of information about touring the islands and recreational opportunities.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Driving the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway

Tour Michigan’s Copper Harbor Scenic Highway

Travel the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway

On our Western Trips site see the article on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Madeline Island

Madeline Island is the largest of Lake Superior’s 22 Apostle Islands.

lake superior lighthouses

Devil’s Island Lighthouse

Plenty of things to do and enjoy on Madeline Island including cottages and campgrounds, beautiful beaches and biking and hiking. Add to this unique shops and dining and a Robert Trent Jones designed golf course.

Learn all about the history of Madeline Island by visiting the Madeline Island Historical Museum.The museum was opened in the mid 1950’s. The museum was created by joining four historic log structures end to end – a small 1835 warehouse from the historic American Fur Company complex, the former LaPointe town jail, a Scandinavian-style barn, and the Old Sailors Home. Getting to the island is a lot of fun.

You can catch the Madeline Island Ferry for a two and a half mile trip to the island. The ferry runs between Madeline Island and the town of Bayfield. Access to the ferry landing is from Highway 13.

Madeline Island is the southernmost of the Apostle Islands and the only island there that is inhabited year round.

bayfield county wisconsin

Bayfield County Wisconsin Courthouse

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Bayfield, Wisconsin on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Scenic Byway is a charming and picturesque town. Bayfield is located on the northern tip of Wisconsin and is the gateway to Madeline Island and the Apostle Islands. In addition to that, Bayfield is an active art community with unique shops, accommodations and dining.

If you enjoy B & B’s, you’ll find some excellent ones in Bayfield. One such is the Old Rittenhouse Inn. The Rittenhouse Inn offers 20 guest rooms in two Victorian homes and a private cottage with fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and spectacular Lake Superior views. Another is the Harbor Hill House located two blocks from downtown Bayfield. A third B & B to check out in Bayfield is the Artesian House B & B. This is an Eco-Friendly Contemporary Inn nestled on 25 Wooded Acres. Full Farm-to Table Breakfast, Comfortable Furnishings, Soaring Great Room with Wood Stove, and Natural Views in All Directions.

The route of the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway captures a picturesque area of lake Superior. If your plans call for a weekend trip or vacation to northern Wisconsin this scenic byway would be a great addition to your travel plans.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Old Bayfield Wisconsin courthouse photo is from Billerti, Creative Commons License 3.0. Remainder of photos and images in the public domain)

Driving the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway


Trips Into History traveled the historic and very scenic Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway. Here is a national Scenic Byway that travels through three counties of southern Colorado and through the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

blanca peak colorado

14,345 foot Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range

In North America, certain roads are designated as scenic byways based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and overall scenic qualities. America’s Byways are a distinctive collection of American roads, their stories and treasured places.

The name of this scenic byway means “the ancient road” and it is true that this roadway winds itself through an area that was once home to the ancient Indians of the southwest as well as the territory of Nuevo Mexico once ruled by Spain.

Travel on the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the culture and traditions of some of Colorado’s oldest communities. You’ll view the spectacular San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges as well as the high, fertile San Luis Valley which is today Colorado’s largest agricultural area. Also, along this highway you’ll explore the fascinating Great Sand Dunes National Park, the site of the highest sand dunes in North America.

las caminos antiguos scenic byway

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Conejos Colorado

Some of the Unique Sites Along the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway

The entire length of the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway is 129 miles and the travel time for it’s exploration will take perhaps four hours. Travel time will be dependent on how many stops you make along the way.  Interpretive markers along the way will direct you to specific sites that tell the region’s history and make the journey so enjoyable.This scenic highway is open during the entire year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

This church was founded in 1856 and it’s parish is the oldest in Colorado. The first church was constructed of logs put together with adobe. In 1863 a larger adobe church was built.  Renovations took place through the years but the building was destroyed in 1926 by an electrical fire. The walls and towers were spared but new brick towers and a brick entrance were built in 1948.When you visit the church you’ll notice a niche above the front entrance near the roof line containing the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is the original statue brought by the first settlers of the area.

stations of the cross san luis colorado

Stations of the Cross, Chapel of All Saints

Shrine of the Stations of the Cross

In the town of San Luis Colorado you’ll see a mesa just a few yards west of the scenic byway off of main street. This is the location of the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. A walkway up the side of the mesa leads past 3/4 size bronze statues by local sculptor Huberto Maestas. The statues depict Christ’s last hours. At the end of the three quarter mile walkway is the Chapel of All Saints which is used by pilgrims for prayer and meditation. On top of the mesa are additional statues of martyrs and saints.From atop the mesa you’ll see the town of San Luis below and the People’s Ditch, the oldest communal irrigation waterway in Colorado.

The mesa is named La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia (the Hill of Piety and Mercy) .Look for the interpretive signs at the trail head on the left side of the highway as you enter the town from the south.

fort garland colorado

Restored Fort Garland Colorado buildings

Historic Fort Garland

North of San Luis is historic Fort Garland, once an important frontier fort that was established in 1858 to protect settlers of the San Luis Valley and at one time commanded by Kit Carson and occupied by the Buffalo Soldiers after the Civil War.

Today, Fort Garland exhibits several restored original buildings and offers visitors several separate museums within the structures. You’ll see authentic frontier firearms, many artifacts from the 1800’s and recreations of original interiors such as the infantry and cavalry barracks and the commander’s quarters. All of the structures were built around a parade ground with it’s historic flagpole in the center.

Looking north from Fort Garland you’ll see the towering Blanca Peak rising some 14,345 feet above sea level. Blanca Peak is the fourth highest peak in Colorado.

On our Western Trips site you’ll enjoy our photo article of Fort Garland found on the link below…

A Trip to Fort Garland

alamosa colorado train station

Old D & RG Railroad Depot, Alamosa Colorado

Alamosa Colorado

Alamosa went from a tent city to a full fledged town almost overnight when tracks of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached the settlement.Today, a great many of the buildings in Alamosa are on both the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the best ways to explore Alamosa is with a downtown walking tour. Maps are available at the Colorado Welcome Center located at the D & RG train depot. Add to your trip a visit to the San Luis Valley Museum. The museum exhibits artifacts, photos and collectibles that portray early farm life in the valley. Also exhibited are Indian and Hispanic artifacts and artifacts and photos of the early railroad.

The link below will take you to our photo article of Alamosa Colorado on our Western Trips site…

A Visit to Alamosa Colorado

great sand dunes colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great San Dunes

The Great Sand Dunes National Monument was created in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. By the year 2004 the park also included a preserve. The preserve was then joined with the Great Sand Dunes Monument and was then the combined area was named a full-fledged National Park in September 2004. It contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.

The Great San Dunes National Park is located about 29 miles northwest of Fort Garland and about 34 miles east/northeast of Alamosa.

Below is a link to our Western Trips photo article on the Great Sand Dunes National Park…

The Great Sand Dunes

rio grande scenic railroad locomotive

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad locomotive, Alamosa Colorado

There’s Plenty to See on the Los Cominos Antiguos Scenic Byway

The above sites along the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway are just a few of the sites you’ll see during your road trip. For more information about the route and additional sites along the way see website  Here you will find much more detailed information as well as a map of the route.

Again, this area of southern Colorado is one of the most scenic and historic in the entire country. If your future travel plans call for a visit to this part of the country you may just want to add this historic scenic byway to your trip planner.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)