Let’s Move QC Outdoors Blogger, Wade Ellett, walked the Great River Trail from the QC to Savanna, IL, picking up trash and enjoying the sites along the way. He shares a few of his favorite attractions here!
North of the QC along the Great River Trail, you’ll find many spots worthy of adventure. The trail is the crown jewel of walking paths in the Quad Cities area. I decided to get to know this path intimately and make it a tad more beautiful, picking up trash the whole way.
That’s 60 miles and 43 bags of trash!
The Great River Trail runs roughly 60 miles in Illinois, mostly following the Mississippi River from Rock Island to Savanna, and is composed of paved rail-trail, sidewalks, bike lanes and paths.
That being said, maybe you haven’t taken the opportunity to see some of the great sights along the GRT. If not, here are some spots that I highly recommend.
Will B. Rolling is a 30-foot tall old-timer cyclist atop a giant Penny Farthing replica in Port Byron.
The giant $60,000 fiberglass statue was funded and donated by former mayor Lawrence Bay and his wife Carol. Its twin, Ben Bikin, lives in Sparta, Wisconsin!
The Bays envisioned creating an annual bike ride – much like Iowa’s RAGBRAI – between the 2 towns. The next Will to Ben Bike Tour will be held Oct. 6-12, 2018! It’s a challenging but beautiful ride through the rolling hills of northern Illinois and Wisconsin.
The mileage from Moline’s Ben Butterworth Parkway to Port Byron is around 10-14 miles depending on your departure location, and when you arrive there are several great local places to eat and be merry.
Native Americans of the Hopewell culture dwelled in what is today Albany, IL as early as 500 BC.
We don’t know what language they spoke, or what they called themselves, but the presence of burial mounds suggests an organized society with complex ritual practices.
Between 200 BC and AD 300, more than 96 burial mounds were constructed here, and about 50 of them survive today.
Albany Indian Mounds State Historic Site features 205 acres of hills, valleys, and surrounding prairie perfect for walking, biking, or just enjoying nature.
The Great River Trail passes through the historic site, but you can get closer to the burial mounds by hiking the trails that break off from the GRT.
Even if you stay on the main path, you’ll be treated to some amazing natural beauty; it’s definitely worth a visit.
Have you ever seen a traditional Dutch windmill in action? Well, you can in Fulton!
Fulton’s De Immigrant Windmill was engineered and built in the Netherlands, then shipped to the U.S. for installation.
Dutch craftsmen journeyed to Fulton, IL, to install the windmill, using traditional building techniques.
Dedication took place during the Dutch Days Festival 2000.
The windmill is fully operational, moving by wind power.
The mill also works, producing a variety of flours, from buckwheat to corn, rye, and wheat. They are for sale in the gift shop, so bring your wallet!
Go a little further north (just 5 miles from Fulton) to discover sand and cactus at Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie.
You may notice the temperature rising by a few degrees.
It’s not just in your head, though, you’re walking along the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie, with a microclimate that will radiate heat!
The Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie is an amazing spot here along the Mississippi River. Its sand was deposited millions of years ago, and still remains in contrast to the surrounding fields and prairie land.
You’ll find some unusual flora and fauna here.
For flora fans, there’s little bluestem, three-awn grass, plains prickly pear cactus and June grass. You might also see big-flowered penstemon.
Fauna includes western hog-nosed snakes, bullsnakes and six lined racerunner snakes.
The ornate box turtle, which is a threatened species in Illinois, also makes its home here.
Give them right-of-way, as these little guys and gals have really suffered due to habitat destruction.
As you keep going north, you’ll find the grasses growing taller, more reminiscent of what you might think of when you imagine an Illinois prairie.
Soon, you’ll come upon the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and therein, Sloan Marsh and the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center, just south of Savanna, IL.
This great facility houses hands-on exhibits, friendly staff, and an incredible view of both the sweeping prairie and the Mississippi River.
High-powered binoculars are set along the edge of Sloan Marsh for your viewing pleasure. Definitely take the time to survey the area!
You’ll see the island where the American white pelicans nest. Depending on when you visit, you might also see bald eagles and sandhill cranes, wading birds and waterfowl.
From roadside stretches to wooded canopies, the GRT is a great trail in our own neck of the woods. There are plenty of places to camp along the way, if you’re so inclined, or can’t bike the full trail there and back in one day.
I hiked it, but I’ll be honest, it is much better suited for biking in some areas; a few stretches are on country roads, without many signs. Still, if you’re looking for a nice long hike, bike, walk, or run, consider getting on the GRT. Just be sure to wear some bright colors so everyone can see you!
Not ready to make the full 60-mile trek? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of places to park along the way for day use. Every attraction I’ve included has parking available if you want to drive a little closer before you set out on foot.
|Meet Wade Ellett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Outdoor Blogger. Wade is an outdoor adventurer who shares his passion for QC outdoor adventures here! Read his other posts by clicking here.|