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Illinois' Most Scenic and Roads and Byways


Great River Road

The 2,069-mile Great River Road borders the Mississippi River through the states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The 557-mile Illinois section of the byway along the Mississippi River flood plain includes 29 state recreation and/or conservation areas. Areas of interest include: Cahokia Mounds, a designated World Heritage Site that features 68 man-made mounds; the historic town of Nauvoo; the John Deere Pavilion in Moline; 8000-acre Pere Marquette State Park; and Spring Lake/Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge.

Start and Endpoint: Byway spans the entire western edge of Illinois from Galena south to Cairo.

For further information, contact: Western Illinois Tourism Development Office

Historic National Road

America's first interstate highway, the National Road was built to to link the people and cities along the Eastern seaboard to those on the frontiers west of the Allegheny Mountains. Authorized by Congress in 1806, construction of the road began in Cumberland, Maryland in 1811. The road reached Vandalia, then the Illinois state capitol, in 1839 and later was completed to the Illinois border at East Saint Louis, opening a link to the water route of the Mississippi.

Point of interest along the Illinois section of the route include Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Franciscan Monastery Museum, and Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. The Eads Bridge, located on the western terminus of the National Road on the Mississippi River was built by the self-taught engineer, James Buchanan Eads. Completed in 1874, it was the the first bridge to span the Mississippi River and is still in use today.

Start and Endpoint: The entire 824-mile east/west route runs from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Mississippi River at the Eads Bridge in East Saint Louis, Illinois. It crosses six states: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The 165-mile Illinois section of the byway runs along US 40, following the original route surveyed in 1828, beginning at the Indiana state line near Terre Haute.

For further information, contact: National Road Association of Illinois

Historic Route 66

Route 66 was designated in 1926 as a federal highway linking Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA. The 2,448-mile route passed through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The road was decommissioned in 1985 in favor of the new interstate highway system and today only 1,410 miles of the original route in three states (Illinois, New Mexico and Arizona) have been designated as National Scenic Byway.

Traversing more than 70 Illinois communities, the "Mother Road" joins the urban cityscape of Chicago with the countryside of Illinois' heartland, presenting memories of an era in the development of the American highway through restored and preserved attractions.

Start and Endpoint: The 436-mile Illinois section of the byway runs from Chicago southwest to the Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge at the Missouri state line.

For further information, contact: Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project, Inc.

Illinois River Road: Route of the Voyageurs

The 291-mile byway preserves the natural river country along the banks of the Illinois River, following the routes of some of the early French explorers (les Voyageurs). It parallels the Illinois River Country Nature Trail, a chain of 100+ nature-based destinations in the Illinois River Valley. Natural areas such as the Wildlife Prairie State Park and the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge provide habitat for several of the species that have come to characterize the American frontier experience, such as buffalo, wild geese, and the American bald eagle.

Start and Endpoint: Byway is a series of roadways paralleling the Illinois River on both sides of the river from Ottawa, near the I&M Canal Corridor, southwest to Havana at the intersection of US 136 in central Illinois.

For further information, contact: Peioria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Lincoln Highway

The historic 179-mile byway follows the original alignment of the Lincoln Highway, the first paved, transcontinental highway in the United States. It was the site of the first "seedling mile" of paved roadway, conceived and promoted by Carl Fisher to demonstrate the superiority of pavement over dirt roads. Byway passes through several cities and historic sites, and preserves some of the original navigation markers, allowing visitors to get a sense of the original journey.

Start and Endpoint: Byway crosses the width of northern Illinois from Lynwood, just south of Chicago on the Illinois-Indiana border, to Fulton on the Mississippi River. Most of the Illinois section of the byway follows US 30 and IL 38.

For further information, contact: Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition

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