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Segment #1: St. Louis to Chester

You will cross the Mississippi on the Old Chain of Rocks bridge to SH#3, a 5-lane road. Continue on #3 to a 4-way stop at Fifth Street (Amoco Station) in Cahokia, where you will turn right onto Water Street. At the RR crossing, turn R on Old Route 3 to Dupo. (Be careful not to get on the X-Way, which parallels Old Route 3.) At Columbia, go R on Palmer, under the X-Way, past SH#3 (heavy traffic), past a Shell Station, and across Do Road. You are now on Bluff/ Valmeyer Road/CR#6.

Bluff is a good backcountry road with little traffic. At the crossroads village of Maeys, go L at the Prairie du Rocher sign and R again on Bluff Road. CR#3 becomes CR#7 into Prairie du Rocher, where you will go L on Market Street, which again becomes Bluff Road until you reach SH#3 into Ellis Grove. Almost immediately take a R onto CR#6 toward Fort Kaskaskia State Park and continue on Kaskaskia Road/CR#6 into Chester.

More Information
The Ste. Genevieve-Modoc ferry, which takes 10 minutes to cross the Mississippi, runs Monday through Saturday from 6AM to 5PM and on Sunday from 9AM to 5PM.

Segment #2: Chester to Jonesboro

You will leave Chester on SR #3. After about 10 miles at the foot of the bluff (atop which is the Shawnee National Forest), watch for the Jackson County sign and after an additional 2 miles for the Jones Ridge sign. Take Jones Ridge/CR#9, leaving the bluff behind and entering an expansive, totally flat agricultural landscape. After 4 miles you will climb to the paved blacktop on the levee and almost immediately back down onto Indian Ridge/CR#9, thence onto Neunert Road/CR#9 and to Neunert. You will know you're close to Neunert when you see the quaint steeple of Christ Lutheran Church poking above the horizon across the fields. Neunert Road/CR#9 will then take you through tiny Brunkhorst and into Gorham. Take Gorham Road to SR#3 to the crossroads community of Wolf Lake, at which you will turn on CR#13 to scenic State Pond Road and onto SR#146 into Anna-Jonesboro.

Segment #3: Jonesboro to Cairo
Leaving from the central square in Jonesboro, you will take SR 127 south 14 miles on a 2-lane road to Tamms. Then turn west on CR#4 (known at the Grapevine Trail) to CR9 (the turn sign says only "Egyptian School") then 10 miles to Olive Branch. Traveling south on CR#2, the route will take you along Horseshoe Lake on a 2-lane road to Miller City, through Willard and on to Frog City (just a crossroads!) at the intersection with SR#3. At #3 you will be on the main road south through Future City into Cairo.

You may choose to continue through Cairo across the US#51/US#60/US#62 bridge into Wickliffe, where you will find motels. You will leave Cairo on a long and narrow bridge with a curve at the end and with fairly heavy traffic. Several cyclists have contacted the Cairo police/sheriff's department for an escort across this bridge; if you can secure an escort, do so. For the next 3.5 miles you will be on US#51, with two lanes, and fairly heavy traffic into Wickliffe.


Resources & Links

  • Visit Travel Mississippi River for the BEST information on travel opportunities between Dubuque, Iowa, and Quincy, Illinois.
  • Adventure Cycling-- published maps of tours along and near the Mississippi River.
  • League of Illinois Bicyclists -- cue sheets, maps, info on preliminary MRT in IL
  • Quad Cities Bicycle Club -- route info
  • River Action -- route info
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources -- route info north of St. Louis
  • Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau -- (800) 248-4373;

Sense of Place

As you leave Jonesboro, you will see the Kornthal Church at 2.7 miles. The church, built by Austrian immigrants in 1860, has an especially beautiful Old World hand-carved interior. At the village of Tamms be sure to stop at the Old Depot. Built in the 1890's, it has been restored to house a museum and serve as a village hall. Horseshoe Lake, surrounded by cypress trees, is a traditional landing place for Canada geese on the Mississippi Flyway. If you are on a leisurely ride during the great geese migrations, you might choose to spend the night in Olive Grove and take time to see fields where thousands of geese will at times be feeding.

Cairo grew up at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers starting in 1818, and not surprisingly it became a major river port. This walled city, completely encircled by levees, was called "Cairo" because its location on a river delta resembled that of Cairo, Egypt. Wealthy riverboat captains and other notables have their palatial residences in Cairo, Illinois, and General Grant located his headquarters here during the Civil War. From here famous Union generals and admirals planned, plotted and executed the war on western waters, so critical to the Union victory. Today, the overall feel of Cairo is of economic depression, and one can become discouraged passing through the business section. However, the city has developed its Eighth Street area, restored with brick paving and period lighting, and has some architectural gems, with their historic collections, that are interesting to visit.

The U. S. Customs House (1872) was originally a post office, government office and federal courtroom. It has unusual historic items on display from the Civil War, including the desk used by General Grant. The Queen Anne-style Safford Memorial Library houses a valuable collection of Civil War documents and a museum-quality collection of antiques and paintings. Magnolia Manor is an 1869 Italianate mansion located on "Millionaire Row" where many beautiful houses still exist. The lovely, red stone Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopal church built in 1860, features beautiful stained glass windows. The tower bell was a steamboat bell recast with 1000 silver dollars from the governors of Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois. Hewer Statue is a 1906 bronze sculpture exhibited during the St. Louis World's Fair and considered by some to be one of the finest nudes in America. As you depart from Cairo, do not miss Fort Defiance State Park, named for the fort constructed by General Grant. Here, the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers join to become the "big river". Few experiences of the Mississippi are more powerfully moving than to stand on top of the overlook structure at sunset and to watch the more unclouded waters of the Ohio meet the turbid waters of the Mississippi.

Take Note

Designation or identification of the Mississippi River Trail is not a guarantee that the route will be safe for all riders under all conditions. The Mississippi River Trail descriptions are intended at this point for use by experienced long-distance bicyclists. Users ride at their own risk, and understand that they will commonly be sharing the road with motorized vehicular traffic. No liability, expressed or implied, is assumed by Mississippi River Trail Inc. for any result occasioned by use of these descriptive documents.

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