Great River Trail In Illinois

Here is everything you need to know about the Great River Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Illinois
  • Length: 60 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use.
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Rock Island County Forest Preserve District
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website:

The Great River Trail is a scenic pathway that stretches along the Mississippi River, offering breathtaking views and a glimpse into the rich history of the region. The trail follows the course of the river, which has played a significant role in the development of the United States. Its history dates back thousands of years, with Native American tribes such as the Cahokia and the Illiniwek calling the area home.

European exploration of the Mississippi River began in the 16th century, with French explorers like Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet venturing into the region. In the 17th century, French settlers established trading posts and forts along the river, including the famous Fort de Chartres. The river served as a vital transportation route for fur traders, explorers, and settlers, facilitating the growth of towns and cities along its banks.

During the 19th century, the Mississippi River became a crucial artery for trade and commerce. Steamboats, powered by steam engines, revolutionized transportation on the river, allowing for faster and more efficient movement of goods and people. The river played a pivotal role during the Civil War, serving as a strategic waterway for both Union and Confederate forces. Battles and skirmishes were fought along its banks, leaving behind a legacy of historical significance.

In the 20th century, the Great River Road was established, connecting various communities along the Mississippi River. The Great River Trail, a part of this larger road system, was developed to provide a recreational pathway for walkers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts. Today, the trail offers visitors the opportunity to explore the region’s history, passing through historic towns, landmarks, and scenic landscapes that have witnessed centuries of human activity along the mighty Mississippi River.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Alton, Illinois: The Great River Trail starts in Alton, Illinois, at the southernmost point of the trail. There are multiple access points in Alton, including the Alton Visitor Center and the Alton Marina.

2. Grafton, Illinois: Grafton is another major access point along the Great River Trail. It is located about 12 miles north of Alton and offers several trailheads, including the Grafton Harbor and the Grafton Riverside Park.

3. Pere Marquette State Park, Illinois: Pere Marquette State Park is a popular destination along the Great River Trail. It offers various trailheads and access points, including the Visitor Center and the Pere Marquette Lodge.

4. Quincy, Illinois: Quincy is a city located along the Mississippi River and serves as a major access point for the Great River Trail. There are several trailheads in Quincy, such as the Clat Adams Bicentennial Park and the Quincy Riverfront.

5. Savanna, Illinois: Savanna is a town located in northwest Illinois and is known for its scenic views of the Mississippi River. It offers access points to the Great River Trail, including the Savanna Marina and the Mississippi Palisades State Park.

6. Fulton, Illinois: Fulton is a city located on the banks of the Mississippi River and provides access to the Great River Trail. The Fulton Marina and Heritage Canyon are popular trailheads in Fulton.

7. Clinton, Iowa: Clinton is a city in eastern Iowa and serves as a major access point for the Great River Trail. The Riverview Park and the Eagle Point Park are popular trailheads in Clinton.

8. Davenport, Iowa: Davenport is a city located on the eastern border of Iowa and offers access to the Great River Trail. The Credit Island Park and the Riverfront Trail are popular trailheads in Davenport.

9. Muscatine, Iowa: Muscatine is a city located along the Mississippi River and provides access to the Great River Trail. The Muscatine Riverfront and the Weed Park are popular trailheads in Muscatine.

10. Burlington, Iowa: Burlington is a city in southeastern Iowa and serves as a major access point for the Great River Trail. The Port of Burlington and the Crapo Park are popular trailheads in Burlington.

Transportation Available

1. Great River Trail Shuttle – Shuttle service providing convenient transportation along the Great River Trail.
2. Bike Rentals – Rental service offering bicycles for exploring the Great River Trail.
3. Riverboat Cruises – Enjoy scenic riverboat cruises along the Great River Trail.
4. Taxi Services – Local taxi companies providing transportation to and from the Great River Trail.
5. Public Bus – Public bus service with stops near the Great River Trail for easy access.
6. Car Rental – Rent a car to conveniently travel to and from the Great River Trail.
7. Ride-Sharing Services – Ride-sharing platforms offering transportation options to the Great River Trail.
8. Train Station – Nearby train station providing transportation to various destinations near the Great River Trail.
9. Airport – Local airport offering flights for those traveling to the Great River Trail.
10. Water Taxi – Water taxi service providing transportation along the river, connecting different points of the Great River Trail.


The Great River Trail offers several amenities for visitors. Some of the amenities available at the trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail for visitors to use.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas provided for visitors to park their vehicles while using the trail.

3. Camping Sites: The Great River Trail offers camping sites for those who wish to spend the night. These sites may have facilities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack. These areas may have picnic tables, benches, and trash receptacles.

5. Water Stations: There are water stations available at certain points along the trail where visitors can refill their water bottles.

6. Bike Rentals: Some sections of the trail may offer bike rental services for those who do not have their own bicycles.

7. Information Centers: There may be information centers or visitor centers along the trail where visitors can obtain maps, brochures, and other information about the trail and its surroundings.

8. Scenic Overlooks: The Great River Trail may have designated scenic overlooks where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the river and surrounding landscapes.

9. Interpretive Signs: Throughout the trail, there may be interpretive signs that provide information about the history, wildlife, and natural features of the area.

10. Trailhead Facilities: At the trailheads, there may be additional amenities such as parking, restrooms, picnic areas, and information boards.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary depending on the specific section of the Great River Trail and the facilities provided by the managing authority. It is recommended to check with the local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information on amenities.

Nearby Services

1. Riverfront Inn – A cozy lodging option with scenic river views.
2. Great River Lodge – A comfortable accommodation with easy access to the trail.
3. Riverside Cafe – A charming eatery offering delicious meals and riverfront dining.
4. Trailside Diner – A casual restaurant serving tasty comfort food near the trail.
5. River View Campground – A campground with beautiful river views for outdoor enthusiasts.
6. Great River B&B – A charming bed and breakfast providing a relaxing stay near the trail.
7. Riverfront Park – A picturesque park with picnic areas and recreational facilities.
8. Great River Hospital – A nearby medical facility for emergency services.
9. River Rescue – A dedicated emergency service providing water rescue and assistance.
10. Great River Police Department – Local law enforcement agency ensuring safety along the trail.

Great River Trail Difficulty Notes

The Great River Trail offers a moderate difficulty level, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. The trail spans over 60 miles along the Mississippi River, providing breathtaking views and diverse landscapes. While the terrain is generally flat, there are occasional inclines and uneven surfaces that add a touch of challenge. The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, making navigation relatively easy. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, the Great River Trail offers a rewarding experience that can be tailored to your fitness level and desired intensity.

Features And Attractions

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1. Mississippi Palisades State Park: Located in Savanna, Illinois, this state park offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and its surrounding bluffs. It is a popular spot for hiking, camping, and birdwatching.

2. Lock and Dam No. 13: Located near Fulton, Illinois, this lock and dam system on the Mississippi River is a fascinating historical site. Visitors can watch as barges and boats pass through the lock, and learn about the importance of river transportation.

3. Effigy Mounds National Monument: Situated in Harpers Ferry, Iowa, this national monument preserves more than 200 prehistoric Native American mounds, including numerous animal-shaped effigy mounds. The site offers beautiful views of the Mississippi River and is a significant cultural and historical landmark.

4. Great River Road: The Great River Trail follows a portion of the Great River Road, a scenic byway that stretches for 3,000 miles along the Mississippi River. This road offers breathtaking views of the river, charming river towns, and access to various historical sites and natural landmarks.

5. Pikes Peak State Park: Located near McGregor, Iowa, this state park offers panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding valleys. It is home to the highest point in Iowa, where visitors can enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, and a scenic overlook.

6. Black Hawk State Historic Site: Situated in Rock Island, Illinois, this historic site preserves the former village of Sauk leader Black Hawk. Visitors can explore the site’s museum, hike through the beautiful wooded areas, and enjoy views of the Rock River.

7. Nelson Dewey State Park: Located near Cassville, Wisconsin, this state park offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding bluffs. It is named after Wisconsin’s first governor, Nelson Dewey, and offers camping, hiking, and picnicking opportunities.

8. National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium: Situated in Dubuque, Iowa, this museum and aquarium provides a fascinating look into the history, culture, and ecology of the Mississippi River. Visitors can explore interactive exhibits, view live animals, and even take a riverboat cruise.

9. Lock and Dam No. 14: Located near Le Claire, Iowa, this lock and dam system is another interesting site along the Great River Trail. Visitors can observe the lock operations, learn about the river’s navigation system, and enjoy scenic views of the river.

10. Effigy Mounds National Monument Visitor Center: Situated in Marquette, Iowa, this visitor center provides information about the Effigy Mounds National Monument and its significance. Visitors can learn about the Native American cultures that

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Bicycles and pedestrians should yield to horses on the trail.
4. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail, except for authorized maintenance vehicles.
5. Camping or overnight stays are not permitted on the trail.
6. Fires and open flames are strictly prohibited.
7. Hunting or trapping is not allowed on the trail.
8. Use of firearms or fireworks is prohibited.
9. Fishing is allowed in designated areas only, following state fishing regulations.
10. Swimming or wading in the river is at your own risk and not recommended.
11. Respect wildlife and do not disturb or feed them.
12. Littering is strictly prohibited; please use designated trash receptacles.
13. Respect private property adjacent to the trail and do not trespass.
14. Be mindful of seasonal restrictions, such as closures during winter months or flood conditions.
15. Follow all posted signs and instructions from trail officials or staff.
16. Use caution and be aware of your surroundings, as the trail may have uneven surfaces or other hazards.
17. Bicyclists should yield to pedestrians and announce their presence when passing.
18. Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
19. Be considerate of other trail users and maintain a safe and respectful distance.
20. Enjoy the trail responsibly and help preserve its natural beauty for future generations.

Seasonal Information

The Great River Trail is a scenic and popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering breathtaking views of the Mississippi River and a variety of recreational activities. The best times of the year to visit the trail largely depend on personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.

Spring is a fantastic time to explore the Great River Trail, as the weather begins to warm up and nature comes alive. The trail is adorned with vibrant wildflowers and blossoming trees, creating a picturesque backdrop for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll. The mild temperatures and lower humidity make it an ideal season for outdoor activities. However, it’s worth noting that spring can also bring occasional rain showers, so it’s advisable to pack a rain jacket or umbrella.

Summer is the peak season for visitors on the Great River Trail, thanks to the warm weather and longer daylight hours. This is the perfect time to enjoy water-based activities such as kayaking, canoeing, or fishing in the Mississippi River. The trail is bustling with activity, and you can expect to encounter fellow outdoor enthusiasts along the way. It’s important to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen during this time, as temperatures can sometimes soar.

Autumn is a breathtaking season to experience the Great River Trail, as the foliage transforms into a stunning display of vibrant colors. The trail is less crowded compared to summer, allowing for a more peaceful and serene experience. Hiking or biking through the trail during this time offers a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of nature’s changing seasons. However, it’s worth noting that some sections of the trail may have seasonal closures due to maintenance or hunting seasons, so it’s advisable to check for any closures before planning your visit.

Winter brings a different kind of charm to the Great River Trail, with its snow-covered landscapes and peaceful ambiance. While some sections of the trail may be closed or inaccessible during this time, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing enthusiasts can still enjoy the winter wonderland. It’s important to dress warmly and be cautious of icy patches on the trail.

Overall, the Great River Trail offers something for everyone throughout the year. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of autumn, the warmth of summer, the freshness of spring, or the tranquility of winter, there’s a season that will suit your preferences and provide a memorable experience on this scenic trail.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Pathways: The Great River Trail features wide and smooth pathways suitable for wheelchair users, ensuring easy navigation and a comfortable experience.
2. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available at various trail access points, providing convenient access for individuals with disabilities.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms equipped with features such as grab bars and wider doorways are available along the trail, ensuring comfort and convenience for all visitors.
4. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the Great River Trail are designed to accommodate wheelchair users, featuring accessible tables and seating arrangements.
5. Accessible Viewing Areas: Scenic viewpoints and overlooks along the trail are designed to be accessible, allowing wheelchair users to enjoy the beautiful river views.
6. Accessible Trailhead Facilities: Trailhead facilities, including visitor centers and information kiosks, are designed to be accessible, providing information and assistance to all visitors.
7. Accessible Signage: Clear and visible signage along the trail incorporates accessibility features such as Braille, large print, and high contrast, ensuring information is easily accessible to individuals with visual impairments.
8. Accessible Water Fountains: Wheelchair-accessible water fountains are available at various points along the trail, providing hydration options for all visitors.
9. Accessible Trail Experiences: The Great River Trail offers inclusive recreational activities such as adaptive biking and accessible fishing spots, ensuring individuals with disabilities can fully enjoy the trail.
10. Accessible Transportation Options: The trail provides information on accessible transportation options, including public transportation and accessible parking, to facilitate easy access for individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

When visiting the Great River Trail, it is important to keep the following safety information in mind:

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths and avoid venturing off into unmarked areas. Straying from the trail can lead to accidents, getting lost, or disturbing the natural habitat.

2. Be aware of your surroundings: Stay alert and watch out for any potential hazards such as uneven terrain, wildlife, or other trail users. Keep an eye on the weather conditions as well, as sudden changes can affect your safety.

3. Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing and footwear. Dress in layers to accommodate changing temperatures and bring rain gear if necessary. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

4. Carry essentials: Bring water, snacks, and a first aid kit with you. It’s important to stay hydrated and nourished during your visit. Additionally, having a basic first aid kit can be helpful in case of minor injuries or emergencies.

5. Use insect repellent: Depending on the season and location, insects like mosquitoes and ticks can be present. Apply insect repellent to protect yourself from bites and potential diseases.

6. Practice proper trail etiquette: Be respectful of other trail users, whether they are hikers, cyclists, or horseback riders. Yield to faster users, pass with caution, and maintain a safe distance. Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them.

7. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your visit to prevent dehydration. Carry an adequate supply of water with you, especially on hot and humid days.

8. Inform someone about your plans: If you are visiting the trail alone, let someone know about your plans, including your expected route and estimated return time. This way, if something goes wrong, someone will be aware and able to assist if needed.

9. Respect wildlife and nature: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them. Do not disturb or damage plants, trees, or any natural features along the trail.

10. Carry a map or use a GPS device: Familiarize yourself with the trail map or use a GPS device to navigate the trail. This will help you stay on track and avoid getting lost.

Remember, safety should always be a priority when enjoying outdoor activities. By following these guidelines, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience on the Great River Trail.

Conservation Notes

The Great River Trail, located in the United States, is a significant conservation area that plays a crucial role in preserving the natural environment and protecting various species of plants and animals. The trail spans across several states and covers a diverse range of ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and riverbanks. Due to its ecological importance, the Great River Trail has been designated as a conservation area, ensuring its protection and sustainable management.

One of the primary conservation concerns for the Great River Trail is the preservation of its unique and fragile habitats. The trail encompasses a variety of ecosystems that support a wide array of plant and animal species. These habitats are essential for the survival and reproduction of numerous rare and endangered species, including migratory birds, amphibians, and aquatic organisms. Efforts are made to maintain the integrity of these habitats by implementing measures to prevent habitat destruction, such as controlling invasive species and managing human activities within the trail area.

Another critical aspect of the conservation status of the Great River Trail is the protection of water quality and the preservation of riparian zones. The trail follows the course of a major river, and the health of this waterway is vital for the overall ecosystem. Conservation efforts focus on reducing pollution, managing runoff, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices to safeguard the water quality of the river. Additionally, the preservation of riparian zones, which are the areas adjacent to the river, is crucial for maintaining the stability of the riverbanks, preventing erosion, and providing habitat for various species. Conservation initiatives aim to restore and protect these riparian zones, ensuring their long-term sustainability.

In conclusion, the Great River Trail holds a significant conservation status due to its diverse ecosystems, rare species, and the importance of its waterways. Conservation efforts focus on preserving habitats, managing invasive species, protecting water quality, and maintaining the integrity of riparian zones. These measures aim to ensure the long-term sustainability and ecological health of the Great River Trail.

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