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By mchance (897 McR Points) on Mar 17, 2024

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Written Directions

The route starts at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower in IL Route 3, just south of Hartford, IL, and follows IL-3 to the Mississippi-Ohio River Confluence in Fort Defiance State Park in Cairo, IL. Heading south on IL-3 for 11 miles, then turn right onto Broadway. Continue straight onto 4th St for 1 mile, then turn right onto N. 2nd St. Continue for 2 miles, then turn right onto the I-55/I-64 on-ramp. As soon as safely possible, move to the second from the right lane (do not take the exit only lane for the MLK Bridge). Follow the right hand fork, and take the IL-3 South exit (Exit 1) approximately 1 mile after entering the highway). In 5.5 miles, continue straight onto I-255. In 4.3 miles, take exit 6 for IL-3 South. In approximately 25 miles, in Redbud, IL, turn right onto S Main St. to continue on IL-3. After 25 miles, in Chester, IL, turn right onto State St. (IL-150), then left onto Opdyke St to continue on IL-3. In approximately 75 miles, at the intersection with IL-127, turn right to continue on IL-3. In approximately 13 miles, you will reach the entrance to the Fort Defiance State Park. The Mississippi-Ohio River Confluence marker is located at the southern tip of the park.

Scenery

There's a mix of scenery along this route. It starts in the industrial areas along the Mississippi River in the Metro East St. Louis area, travels past East St. Louis (which, admittedly, has seen better days), and then into the countryside of southern Illinois. Despite being designated the Great River Road for most of the length of the route, it only comes within sight of the Mississippi River a few times, with most of the route traveling through farmlands and small towns, and ends in the historic town of Cairo, IL (which also, sadly, has seen better days).

Drive Enjoyment

This route has a bit of everything as far as road conditions. IL-3 north of East St. Louis is primarily a four-lane divided highway, with older asphalt and chip and seal patches. The I-55/I-64 section is primarily asphalt or concrete, and thankfully short (be very aware of traffic as you have to move over 3 lanes of traffic in less than a mile). Between I-55/I-64 and I-255 is older two lane streets. The I-255 section is primarily concrete with, as of 2024, significant cracking and potholes (it is slated for a complete repave in a few years). Once on IL-3 south of I-255, the road is mostly a 2 lane highway, with well maintained asphalt surfaces all the way to Cairo. Other than the northern section (until you turn off of I-255), the road is mostly straight with sweeping turns between the various small towns.

Tourism Opportunities

The route starts at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower, which has a 150 high observation deck ($10 fee) overlooking the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Just to the south is the Camp River Dubois State Historic Site, where the Lewis and Clark Expedition started from. In Venice, IL, the route goes past the Illinois end of the McKinley Bridge, which carried Route 66 into Missouri. West of the town of Ruma on IL-155 is the Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, which served as the seat of the French government in the upper Louisiana Territories. Chester, IL is the home of E.C. Segar, the creator of the Popeye the Sailor cartoon characters. There is a statue of Popeye at the Segar Memorial Park, just off the end of the Chester Mississippi River Bridge, and a number of statues of various characters from the comic strip and cartoons scattered around the town (which makes for a fun scavenger hunt to find them all). South of Chester, the route travels past the Shawnee National Forest and the Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area. The route ends in Cairo at Fort Defiance State Park.

Motorcycle Road Additional info

This route travels between the two great river confluences in the middle of the US, the Missouri/Mississippi and the Ohio/Mississippi. There is a great diversity of landscapes, scenery, and sites as it parallels the Mississippi River through southern Illinois.
 

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