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Great River Road - Illinois

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Quick Facts
Designation: Great River Road
Designation: Illinois State Scenic Byway
Designation: National Scenic Byway
Fees: No fees are required to drive the byway.
Length, One-Way: 557 Miles (928.33 Kilometers)
Time: 31 hours, plus overnights

General Information

Description - Experiencing the Mississippi River for the first time is a memory few can forget. The awe that many people feel toward this river may come from the power of a flood or the beauty of a golden sunset that reflects off still winter waters and turns graceful steel bridges into shimmering lines of color.

An Artery of American History
Looking out over the river, it is almost impossible to comprehend the complex layers of history that have been acted out along its banks. From the large communities of the Hopewell Indian culture -- the most complex society in North America (c. 700 A.D. to 1400 A.D.) -- and early French colonial settlements and fortifications to the frightened, cautious, and optimistic eyes of slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad, this corridor has played a role in many of this continent's most dramatic hours. It is difficult to comprehend that nearly 15 percent of the nation's shipping passes through the river's complex system of locks and dams. It is also hard to believe that such commercial activity can occur under the spreading wings of the newly thriving American bald eagle.

A Link to the Great River
It is from the Great River Road that most visitors and residents understand and define their relationship with the Mississippi. It is from this road that the historic sites and cultural artifacts of the area can be accessed, from Native American mounds to the Mormon (L.D.S.) temple. The beautiful Mississippi bluffs tower over the byway as the permanent sentinals for the great river. Whether directly along the banks of the river or winding through the vast flood plain miles from the water, The Great River Road links resources, people, and history.

Attractions - The Great River Road - Illinois is known for it's Archeology, Cultural, Historical, Natural, Recreational and Scenic Attractions.

Climate - Illinois experiences four distinct seasons with varying weather throughout the year. Winter can be very cold. The highest humidity of the year occurs during this season averaging 70 to 75 percent. Average low temperatures in January dip to 20 degrees F with highs near 35 degrees F. Spring temperatures are mild with humidity below 70 percent. Temperatures during this season average between 32 and 50 degrees F. Summer is usually hot and humid in this Midwest state. Low temperatures remain in the low sixties with high temperatures near 90 degrees F. The highest rainfall of the year occurs during the summer months. Fall is an excellent time to visit the state with low humidity and rainfall and moderate temperatures.

Location -

Directions from : The Great River Road spans the width of the country and the entire west edge of Illinois. There are several ways to access this scenic byway.

  • From Chicago to Galena/East Dubuque: Take U.S. Highway 20 west to Galena or East Dubuque.
  • From Chicago to the Quad Cities: You can take Interstate 88 west to Interstate 80 West (Exit #4), and then take Interstate 80 west to U.S. Route 84 (Exit #1). Route 84 is the Great River Road. You can also take Interstate 55 south to Interstate 80, and then take Interstate 80 west to U.S. Route 84 (Exit #1). Again, Route 84 is the Great River Road.
  • From Cedar Rapids to East Dubuque: Take U.S. Route 151 north to U.S. Route 20 in Dubuque. Travel across the river on U.S. Route 20 into East Dubuque.
  • From St. Louis to the Great River Road: Take Interstate 270 east across the river into Illinois, and then take the Illinois Route 3 south exit. This is where an exploration route begins. You can also take Interstate 270 to the Illinois Route 111 south exit. This is where the main route picks up again. Take Interstate 64 east across the river into Illinois, and then take the Illinois Route 3 south exit. This is the main route of the Great River Road.

Driving the Byway

From Galena to Moline
  • Beginning your drive in northwestern Illinois, you will find the community of Galena. Follow US 20 out of Galena and to its junction with SR 84.
  • Turn onto SR 84 and follow it past Mississippi Palisades State Park and the community of Savanna.
  • SR 84 will pass Fulton, Illinois and continue on until you reach the Quad Cities of Moline and Rock Island.

From Moline to Nauvoo
  • From Moline and Rock Island, continue along the byway on SR 92.
  • Just before you reach Lock and Dam 16, turn onto 45th Street and continue south on the Great River Road.
  • Just before you reach New Boston, turn onto SR 17 and travel east.
  • Turn south onto 76th street and continue to the community of Keithsburg.
  • At Keithsburg, travel south on Keithsburg Road which becomes County Road 3. You will pass Big River State Forest and Delebar State Park before reaching the community of Oquawka.
  • From Oquawka, take SR 164 until it joins US 34. Turn right onto US 34 and travel toward the river until you reach the turn off to SR 522.
  • Travel south on SR 522 until you reach the community of Lomax.
  • From Lomax, take SR 96 along the Mississippi. When you pass through Dallas City, SR 96 becomes SR 9.
  • Continue on SR 9/96 as it turns back into SR 96. SR 96 will take the byway into the historic community of Nauvoo.

From Nauvoo to Kampsville
  • From Nauvoo, take SR 96 and travel south past the communties of Hamilton, Lima, Marcelline and Ursa.
  • SR 96 eventually joins up with US 24. Take US 24 into Quincy, Illinois.
  • From Quincy, travel south on SR 57 until it merges with SR 96. Continue on SR 96 past several communities until you reach the community of Kampsville. At this point, the Great River Road meets the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway.

From Granite City to Chester
  • The Great River Road begins again in Granite City just north of East St. Louis.
  • Travel through East St. Louis and take SR 3 to continue south along the river.
  • At the community of Waterloo, leave SR 3 and take Lakeview Drive. Lakeview Drive becomes Maeystown Road which leads drivers to the historic community of Maeystown.
  • Take the Maeystown Road south until it intersects with Bluff Road. Continue south on Bluff Road until you reach the community of Prairie Du Rocher.
  • From Prairie Du Rocher, take Bluff Road until it turns into Collins Road.
  • The road joins with SR 3 and takes travelers to the community of Ellis Grove.
  • Continue on SR 3 to the city of Chester.

From Chester to Cairo
  • From Chester, continue on SR 3 down the banks of the Great River.
  • SR 3 joins US Highway 51 after the city of Cache. Take US 51 into Cairo, Illinois where the byway ends.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Cathy
Number of People Encountered: 50+ ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Hello there. I live off of the great river road. Route 84. For the most part it is a beautiful scenic road. Some time riding right next to the waters edge. There is construction along Route 84, Just North of Hanover IL. This should be completed by august 1 2003. The detour takes you through route 78. However if you drive up to just north of Galena, you can back track on "blackjack road" this will take you back to route 84, and save a bit of time. Also expect a very small delay just at the Sabula bridge, they are working on the bridge there. Great places for lunch. IN Hanover IL there is Big Rays, and the Hanover Cafe, both offer some good ole town country food. Also you can catch up with the Locals at the Bootlegger. In Savanna, there is a Chinese place in the old Mississippi Steamship bar. Great lunch specials. Also in Savanna is Bootleggar II. More good places like that along the road. Don't be afraid to stop at some of the small places. I have found some great places to eat along this route. If your are looking for steak,, The Riverside is another on, between Hanover and Savanna, near the Mississippi Palisades. Enjoy your trip on the road. Watch for the tug boats, and barges.. what a wonderful site.

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More Information

Contact Information:
Great River Road- Western Illinois Tourism Development Office, 581 South Deere Road , Macomb, Illinois, 61455, Phone: 1-877-477-7007
, info@greatriverroad-illinois.org

Additional Information:
Illinois Scenic Byways - Illinois has five National Scenic Byways: The Lincoln Highway, Illinois' Great River Road, The Ohio River Scenic Route, Illinois' National Road, and the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route.
Western Illinois Travel Region -

Scenic Byways Homepage - National Scenic Byways official web site with detailed info on all national and state byways.


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