For anyone who enjoys being out in nature, Pere Marquette Park in West Central Illinois offers a year-round playground. The park is located near to Grafton, and visitors can find great lodging at Green Tree Inn or Maple Leafe Cottage Inn in nearby Elsah.
The expansive park is named for Pere Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary who traveled with the explorer and cartographer, Louis Joliet. A large stone cross at the east entrance of the park commemorates their landing here on the Illinois River.
To get oriented to the area, stop off in the Visitors Center. Here you can check out the three-dimensional map, and review the exhibits that focus on the Illinois River, wildlife, geology, and local history. The park has 12 miles of marked hiking trails, suitable to all levels of hikers. Once it snows enough, these become snowshoe and cross county ski trails. The paths lead you through forests and up towering bluffs where you’ll find wonderful views.
During winter, Pere Marquette Park is a haven for bald eagles, which you can often spot in the treetops along the Illinois River. In addition to these magnificent raptors, nearly 240 other bird species have been identified in the area.
Spring through fall, bikers come to ride the Sam Valdabene Trail that runs from the park to the city of Alton, about 20 miles south. A wide variety of fish—bluegill, catfish, drum, white bass, and others—make the park a popular fishing area as well. Summer brings boating; fall draws hunters.
Come for a visit. You’ll find that every season offers something delightful to see and do in this lush and scenic park.
Pere Marquette Park
13112 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, IL
Visitor Center Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Just down river of the park is Elsah, Illinois, where you’ll find two charming B&B’s.
Maple Leafe Cottage Inn has six guest rooms with private baths, in-room sitting areas, and outdoor porches for relaxing.
12 Selma Street, Elsah, IL
Green Tree Inn, located in the heart of old town Elsah, has five en-suite guest rooms, a great room with fireplace, and welcomes guests with afternoon sweet treats.
15 Mill Street, Elsah IL
Both inns are members of the Illinois Bed and Breakfast Association and offer a unique lodging experience!