Outdoor Fun at Pere Marquette State Park Near Alton
If you’re visiting the lovely Alton, Illinois, or driving along the stunning Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway, be sure to stop at an absolute gem of a park at Pere Marquette State Park. Nature lovers will appreciate the outdoor escape and plentiful activities the site has to offer.
Park History and Background
Named after Jacques Marquette, who was the first European to map the mouth of the Illinois River, the park has evidence of its early Native American inhabitants – approximately 150 Native American burial mounds are scattered throughout the area.
There are loads of wonderful outdoor activities at the park, but begin your visit at the visitors center. Here, you’ll get information on the plants, animals and trails you’ll see in the park that will help you appreciate all it has to offer. There are exhibits on ecology and local history as well.
Home to 230 species of birds, the 8,000-acre protected area is excellent for birdwatching enthusiasts. From December to March, look above and you’ll catch a glimpse of bald eagles cruising on warm air currents. This majestic bird, which boasts a wing span of 6 to 7 ½ feet, was once a threatened species, but made a remarkable comeback in the 1990s.
Adventures for the Whole Family
Wear comfortable shoes and bring any necessary equipment to hike on one of the park’s well-marked trails. There are about 12 miles of trails here for everyone from beginners looking for a leisurely stroll, to advanced hikers seeking an escape from everyday life.
Horseback riding enthusiasts will be excited to ride a horse from Pere Marquette Stables, which operates during the warmer months of May through October. There are 20 miles of equestrian trails to ride.
Being on the river, the park also offers lots of opportunities for fishing. Blugill, carp, catfish, crappie and largemouth bass are among the species found in the Illinois and Mississipi Rivers. There are launch ramps and plenty of parking for your fishing party. The park hosts a family fishing fair in the summer to reel in young and aspiring anglers. There are spectacular views of the rivers here, whether or not you plan to fish.
Looking to hunt squirrel, turkey or deer? You’ll find a 2,000-acre public hunting ground as well. There are an additional 1,300 acres five miles north of the park. You must obtain a free permit at the visitor center during approved hunting season.
Pere Marquette State Park is also famous for the beautiful trees as leaves change color in the fall. Bring the family and get in a festive mood as you take in the natural beauty of this local outdoor treasure.
While in the Alton area, be sure to also stop by the impressive Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and learn about America’s most famous explorers at the Lewis & Clark State Historical Site, which is the first stop on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.