Great River Road Trippin’
My wife had never been on the Great River Road. Knowing this, means that her whole life long, she never got to swim in a wave pool tucked along the limestone bluffs at the Illinois River’s edge, or to witness the fall leaves on a leisurely drive up to Grafton, or to see the Bald Eagles in their winter nesting environment. Okay, so I haven’t seen the eagles in their winter nesting environments either, but I plan on it; however, my family did spend a lot of time in the area, both in a car and in a boat, when I was growing up and I have to say that the memories are fond ones. Every summer, we used to drive up from Greenville or Carlyle, and slip our boat in the water around Alton. Then, we’d spend the weekend cruising and camping up and down the river; it was certainly a highlight for me back when….So, my wife keeps stalling our own planned excursion up the Great River Road, and this is despite me waxing poetic about the beautiful fall foliage and the quaint river towns, etc. Today, I twist her arm a bit, and we are on our way. Little did she know that she would enjoy it so much, or did I know how much has changed (in a good way). Pics after the jump.
All Nikon D300 with either Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G or Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-x Lenses attached.
Crossing the Mississippi into Illinois.
Alton, or the town that would have been the state capital. See the red line at the bottom of the building? That’s where the Mississippi River came up to in the flood on 1993.
The Piasa Bird was a bird that devoured men (ladies, you’re safe), according to local, Native American legend. When I was little you could see an older, antiquated version, which I mistook as the original Indian painting, then a painted, cut-out, board rendering was installed further north, and now it has been re-painted in its “original” location on the site of what looks like the combination of an old limestone quarry and a city park. This is somewhat disappointing; I’d hoped to show my wife the “original” (which is now, sadly, overpainted), but at least it is still represented as an important part of early indigenous folklore.
My wife with the Piasa.
Those spots aren’t dust on the sensor, they’re Turkey Vultures which are in great numbers throughout the region.
15-20 years ago, I remember Grafton as being a really isolated place, but since then it seems to have come up into a really inviting riverside village. There are now at least three wineries (Piasa, Grafton and Aerie’s), lot’s of new homes/condos, and lots of new fish stands and restaurants.
Despite all of the new establishments, I decided to take Mandi to one that I have fond, childhood memories of, the Fin Inn.
The Fin Inn has table-side aquariums featuring fish mostly from the Amazon (so you are not eating the cute ones that are watching you eat). Plus, they have a couple of 150+ year old Alligator Snapping Turtles (awesome animals, period). The Fin Inn is a fried food mecca (ie. not fine dining, but real dining), and I highly recommend the whole catfish.
I had a Budweiser draft, and Mandi had a Michelob Lager. The alcohol selection isn’t expansive, but hey, that’s what the Piasa Winery is for…
My wife, with some wide angle distortion.
A visit to Tara Point reveals the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers (thanks to Leah from the Fin Inn!).
A shot of my wife at the locale.