Sitting on over 8,000 acres of protected land where the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers meet, Pere Marquette State Park is just begging to be explored by you and your family in your RV. The park was first established in 1931 and it is still the perfect escape for nature lovers and history buffs alike. In fact, the nature and history of the park go hand in hand. The various rivers and streams that support the wildlife of the area were originally formed by huge moving glaciers millions of years ago.
The park is also rich in cultural history and was once home to Native Americans tribes, as is evident by the various artifacts found throughout the park, including pottery fragments, spearheads, and even burial mounds. The park was later explored by its namesake and French missionary, Pere Marquette, after failing to find a passage to the Pacific ocean from the Mississippi River.
A lot has changed since Pere Marquette explored the area, though, including the addition of bike trails, horseback trails, visitor center, boat launches, picnic areas, and several camping and lodging options, including 80 RV friendly campsites. However, some things have stayed the same, like the great fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and birding opportunities. Regardless of when you visit Pere Marquette State Park, there is plenty for any RVer to enjoy.
RV Rentals in Pere Marquette State Park
Transportation in Pere Marquette State Park
Pere Marquette State Park is a breeze to find since it is located right along the popular Illinois Route 100, also known as the Great River Road. The scenic byway takes you around the perimeter of part of the park and right to the entrance. The interior roads are paved and lack any super sharp turns, so it's pretty easy to get around the park using any mode of transportation. The interior roads are in good condition and you don't have to worry about any narrow bridges or very steep inclines.
Many visitors choose not to lug around their RV after arriving, though. The roads don't make it impossible, but many prefer to hook up their RV and navigate the park in a car instead. However, the roads won't take you absolutely everywhere, the hiking and biking trails are really what take you throughout the park and let you get up close with nature. This is why many visitors also choose to bring bikes or scooters for exploring the park. The bike trail within the park is paved, so it's suitable for all members of the family and continues all the way to the city of Alton, almost 20 miles south of the park.
Campgrounds and parking in Pere Marquette State Park
Campsites in Pere Marquette State Park
Campground A is one of two campgrounds at the park and the only one suitable for RV camping. It's made up of 80 campsites with electrical hookups, but no water or sewage hookups. Luckily, drinking water, showers, and a dump station are all located in or very near the campground, so you still have everything you need. Each site also has a grill, fire ring, and picnic table. All sites can accommodate RVs and trailers 25 feet long, and most can handle even bigger equipment, with some having enough room for RVs and trailers over 60 feet in length.
Make sure whatever campsite you reserve can accommodate your equipment to avoid any issues when you arrive. Reservations are available for sites two through 30, must be made at least three days ahead of arrival, and can be made up to 6 months in advance. Two cabins are also available to rent within Campground A. Campsite B is located just down the road and is a tent only site. Lastly, the park offers a Youth Tent Camp Area and three group camps that can accommodate 120 people each.
Campsites 31-80 are available on a first-come, first-served basis year round. Reservations for the other sites are only available from May to October, during the park's peak months, so the rest of the year the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Still, if you plan on staying a weekend, it's recommended to arrive as early as possible Friday afternoon to get a spot.
Seasonal activities in Pere Marquette State Park
The limestone formations in the park are the perfect place for a rock climbing adventure. They may not be suitable for beginners, but experienced climbers and repellers will have a ball. Pack your climbing equipment in your RV and explore the more than 60 different climbing trails available throughout the park. The trails are a mix of traditional and sports trails. Just be sure to stick to your comfort zone and never climb or repel outside of the designated areas.
Fishing along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers is a common recreational activity at Pere Marquette State Park. The boat launches make it easy to set sail for a day of angling along the rivers, which is the only kind of fishing that is permitted within the park. Anglers can expect to catch a wide variety of fish from the diverse river ecosystem, including white bass, largemouth bass, catfish, drum, carp, bluegill, and more. The park is also home to the annual Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair, held every June.
With nearly a dozen miles of trails meandering through the park, there is plenty of opportunities for beginners and experts to explore the park while taking in breathtaking views of the natural beauty that surrounds. There are nine scenic overlooks in total, spread out along the trails. The trails are easy to follow and are marked for your convenience. If you're traveling with small kids, try out the short, half-mile long Ravine Trail, or, if you're looking for a longer, more challenging hike, you might want to try the two and a half mile Fern Hollow Trail. All you have to do to get started is park the camper and head out onto the trail.
Exploring the Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is open year round and is filled with a plethora of knowledge any parkgoer would be fascinated by, including a 3D map of the park. The exhibits within the visitor center teach visitors about the natural, cultural, and geologic history of the park. The engaging exhibits also teach about the wildlife in and along the Illinois River. Don't leave without stopping by the gift shop and picking up a memento to remember your RV trip to Pere Marquette State Park.
The park is home to over 200 species of birds, making it the perfect spot for bird lovers year round. Although you won't be able to see all of the birds that call the park home, visitors can spot some of the coolest birds during the winter months. For example, bald eagles are known to perch in the trees and soar high above the park during the winter and seeing one is a once in a lifetime experience for many people.
Horseback riding is another activity that can be enjoyed year-round at Pere Marquette State Park. The park has over 20 miles of trails that can be used for horseback riding, although not all of them are open the whole year. Still, there are trails that are open all year that offer scenic views of the 8,000-acre park. During the off-season the Pere Marquette Stables is closed, so you'll have to bring your own horse if you plan on exploring on horseback.