Update: the Visitor Center will be closed on most Sundays and some state holidays.
A nature-lover's paradise, this 8,000-acre park in Jersey County is famous for the exceptional beauty of its fall colors and for its wintering bald eagle. In addition to enjoying the spectacular view of the Illinois River and its backwaters from several points atop the bluffs, visitors can take advantage of a variety of year-round recreational opportunities, including horseback riding, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and boating.
Pere Marquette's Visitor Center, opened in October 1997, welcomes you with a three-dimensional map of the park and wealth of other displays and exhibits concerning the Illinois River, wildlife habitat, local history and geology.
The history of Pere Marquette State Park centers around that of the Illinois River. The forces that formed the river can be traced to ancient glaciers that pushed their way down over most of Illinois, but stopped just short of the park land. In the path of the glaciers and their meltwaters, a rich network of streams and rivers were formed, and tons of soil and bedrock were ground to dust which rose and blew up against the hillsides. These ancient layers of wind-blown soil, called loess (pronounced "less") can be seen along the roads and trails of Pere Marquette.
Gradual climate changes over thousands of years made the region an ideal environment for the prairie grasses and plants which eventually covered two-thirds of Illinois. Deciduous forest, dominated by oak and hickory, held their ground along rivers, streams and upland hills protected from prairie fires.
Throughout the hills, ravines and prairies, native American people hunted game, gathered food and later made homes. Archaeologists describe six native American cultures common to this region. Evidence of their presence has been found in the form of fragments of pottery, spear points and planting tools. Burial mounds also are distributed throughout the park, including one atop McAdams Peak.
When Europeans began to explore the Illinois country, most of the Native Americans they met were members of the Illini tribe. The first of these explorers, in 1673, was a group led by Louis Joliet, a cartographer, and Pere (Father) Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary. Marquette and Joliet, accompanied by French voyageurs, paddled down the Mississippi River in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean. They encountered something on the Mississippi
Bluffs which has become a local legend: "we saw . . two painted monsters which at first made us afraid and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes." They learned that the creature was part bird, with the face of a man, scales like a fish, horns like a deer and along black tail. The creature was called Piasa. A representation of the Piasa Bird is still maintained in paint on the bluffs about 20 miles from the park.
Learning from the Native Americans that the Mississippi River emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, Marquette and Joliet turned back, returning by way of the Illinois River and stopping near what now is Pere Marquette State Park. A large stone cross east of the park entrance commemorates their historic landing.
Generations later, local civic groups sought to preserve this land by the river as a state park. They raised money and were successful in persuading the state to match their funds for the purchase of the land in 1931. The newly created state park was to be called Piasa Bluffs, but by popular demand, it was renamed Pere Marquette State Park in honor of the adventurous French missionary.
There is much to enjoy in the surrounding area, including sensational scenery, award-winning wineries, golf courses, restaurants, water activities, sporting events, antique shopping, historical museums and more. The park is located along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Great River Road, a section that has been designated as the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway. Just an hour from the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Visit any of the following Web sites for up-to-date information on local events and attractions:
Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and has been expanded and updated in recent years. Today, native stone and rustic timbers of the original lodge blend with the new to provide first-class accommodations in an historical setting. The mammoth stone fireplace in the lobby soars to a roof height of 50 feet, and is said to weigh 700 tons.
There are 50 spacious guest rooms and 22 stone guest cabin rooms. Among the facilities available are a cocktail lounge, gift shop, indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, saunas, game room and tennis court.
Pere Marquette Lodge provides elegant dining, with a Sunday brunch that draws people from Missouri as well as Illinois. The dining room seats 150 people and offers a choice of family style dining or selections from the menu.
The 2,900 square-foot conference center has banquet facilities to accommodate 300, and a comprehensive selection of audio/visual equipment. The center breaks into four separate meeting rooms.
For more information or reservations, write Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center, Route 100, PO Box 429, Grafton, IL 62037, or call (618) 786-2331, fax (618) 786-3498, E-mail
Camping | Campground MAP
If you prefer a more rustic experience, Pere Marquette offers a wide range of camping opportunities:
Reservations for campsites, cabins and picnic shelters, and group camps may be made at www.reserveamerica.com
- The Class A campground has 80 sites, two of which are handicap accessible. Sites have electrical hookups only, with a sanitary dump station, drinking water, and a shower building available on the grounds. Sites 2-30 are available for reservation from May through October. The nearby Class B tent camping area also has access to the shower building.
- Within the Class A campground, the park offers two Rent-A-Camp cabins.
- Popular among scout groups is the Youth Tent Camp Area, also known as Duncan Hill. This separate campground offers a picnic shelter and tables, pit-type toilets and drinking water.
- For large organized groups, Pere Marquette operates three Organized Group Camps. Camp Potawatomi accommodates 60 campers; Camp Piasa and Camp Ouatoga each accommodate 120. All three camps feature fully-equipped kitchens and dining rooms, lighted sleeping cabins with cots and mattresses, and restroom facilities with warm showers and flush toilets. Camps Piasa and Ouatoga also feature swimming pools, open seasonally.
Plenty of picnic areas are available throughout the park, with tables, grills and trash containers provided. Three picnic shelters are available, and may be reserved. A fee is required to reserve shelters. Reservations can be made at www.reserveamerica.com
A wide variety of fish such as bluegill, carp, catfish, crappie, drum, largemouth bass and white bass, attract anglers to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Launching ramps and ample parking provide access to the river, with courtesy docks available when weather conditions and river levels permit. Future plans include a full-service marina. The Two Rivers Fishing Fair is an annual youth fishing fair in June, and is a popular way to hook youngsters into fishing. Two Rivers Fishing Fair Flyer
Hiking | Trail MAP
Approximately 12 miles of marked trails provide scenic hiking to beginners and experienced hikers alike. Lush forests, towering bluffs, and an abundance of wildlife provide the perfect backdrop for your outing. Trail maps are available at the Visitor Center.
The sites interpretive postition is vacant at this time. However, the visitor's center has educational display rooms available for self education. The video room is outfitted with three video segments, which is available to the public during the visitor's center hours of operation. Eagle tours are offered from late December to late February. For more information, contact the Visitor Center.
The park offers about 20 miles of equestrian trails with a parking area for your trailers on Graham Hollow Road. The trails to the west of Graham Hollow are open year-round. The trails east of Graham Hollow will be closed during certain seasons of the year. These areas will be posted when closed.
Pere Marquette Riding Stables is open for trail rides every day except Tuesday, weather permitting, from May through October. Call 618-786-2156 for a reservation.
The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail runs from Pere Marquette State Park to the City of Alton, approximately 20 miles south of the park. The entire trail is paved.
Pere Marquette State Park is located off of the Illinois River and near the Illinois River and Mississippi River Confluence. This location allows ample opportunities for the visiting public to view our national bird. Have you ever seen our national bird, the bald eagle? Soaring on a 6 to 7 1/2 foot wing span, these birds are magnificent! It is not necessary to travel all the way to Canada to see these magnificent creatures because Pere Marquette is fortunate to play host to these seasonal visitors. Eagles may be spotted in the tree tops along the Illinois River from December to March. The visitor's center is equiped to show live video footage of an active eagle's nest.
About 230 species of birds have been identified within, at the boundaries of, or flying over Pere Marquette State Park. A checklist has been prepared by local birders, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources, and is available at the Visitor Center. Popular locations for bird watching are Stump Lake, in the river bottoms, and McAdams Peak and other overlooks along the park's scenic roadway.
The 2,000-acre public hunting area located off Graham Hollow Road has good stands of mature oak and hickory timber, which provide excellent habitat for squirrel, deer and turkey. These game species may be hunted in accordance with statewide seasons and regulations, with the exception of squirrel season, which begins the day after Labor Day in the park. Another 1,344 acres is available for public hunting at Copperhead Hollow Wildlife Area, located on Nutwood Road, approximately 5 miles north of the park. The topography of this area varies from steep hills to bottomland floodplain (Otter Creek). The bottomland areas are mostly farm fields. The hills consist of mostly oak/hickory woodlands with some areas becoming dominated by maple. Deer, turkey, squirrel, raccoon, coyote and waterfowl may be hunted in this area according to statewide regulations. All hunters using the Public Hunting Areas at Graham Hollow Road or Cooperhead Hollow must obtain a free permit at the Visitor Center. Pere Marquette Hunter
Fact Sheet | Copperhead Hollow Hunter Fact Sheet
Archery deer hunting is offered on an additional 3,000 acres in the three Organized Group Camp areas by special permit. Four 8-day seasons are offered, beginning in late October, (when the group camps close for the season). By random drawing, five hunters are selected for each season in each area. Drawings are held annually the first working day in April. Applications will be available by March 1st. Contact the Visitor Center for applications and information. Archery Deer Application
Spring turkey hunting also is available in the Organized Group Camp areas by special permit. To be considered for this hunt, hunters must use the statewide firearm turkey permit application, and apply for Pere Marquette Group Camp Area. For further information, contact the Visitor Center, or the IDNR Permit Office at (217) 782-7305.
Videos and Audio
View the video below to learn more about Pere Marquette State Park. There also is an "Audio Only" option if you would like to just listen or want to save the file to your MP3 player.
The Park by the River - Pere Marquette State Park
The Park by the River - Pere Marquette State Park
- While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
- At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs' Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175 for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844