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 on your next RV vacation. Just nine minutes away from the city of Grafton, Illinois, the park was first established in 1931 and is the perfect escape for nature lovers and history buffs alike. In fact, many of the park's natural features help tell its history. For example, a majority of rivers and streams in the park were originally formed by the movement of large glaciers millions of years ago.
The park is also rich in cultural history and was once home to several Native American tribes. Many artifacts left behind by these ancient tribes can be found throughout the park today including pottery fragments, spearheads, and even burial mounds. The park was later explored by its namesake Pere Marquette, a French missionary who stumbled across the park after failing to find a passage to the Pacific ocean from the Mississippi River.
A lot has changed since Pere Marquette trekked through the area. Nowadays, the natural wonders of the park are accompanied by a few additions such as bike trails, horseback trails, a Visitor Center, boat launches, picnic areas, and several lodging options. However, the important parts of the park have stayed the same, like the abundance of fish, the natural rock formations that create fun rock climbing areas, and the many species of birds that can be spotted flitting around the park. Regardless of when RV visitors come to Pere Marquette State Park, there is plenty to enjoy.
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 visitors around the perimeter of part of the park and right to the entrance. The interior roads are paved and lack any sharp turns, so it's pretty easy to get around the park using any mode of transportation. The park roads are in good condition so guests will not have to worry about any narrow bridges or very steep inclines. Though not impossible to navigate the park via RV, many guests have found it much easier to hook up their RV and navigate the park in a car instead.
Be aware that the roads don't show off everything in the park. The hiking and biking trails are really what take guests through the park and let them get up close with nature. This is why many visitors also choose to bring bikes or scooters for exploring the park trails. 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.
Just 12 miles from downtown St. Louis, Missouri, the St. Louis N.E./I-270/Granite City KOA is close to many major attractions including the Gateway Arch, Historic Route 66, casinos, Lewis and Clark historic sites and much more. Campers will enjoy the seasonal pool and the children will love the playground and jumping pillow. Guests can even bring their pets and take advantage of the off-leash K-9 playground. Big rigs are always welcome in this campground with pull-through sites up to 75 feet long. Full hookups are powered by 50-amp service, and Wi-Fi is available throughout the park. Other amenities include clean restrooms, hot showers, and laundry facilities.
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. Drinking water, showers, and a dump station are all located in or very near the campground, so guests will still have access to everything they might need during their stay. A grill, fire ring, and picnic table are included with each campsite.
The campsites accommodate a variety of RV sizes ranging from 25-foot to 68-foot long rigs. Campers will need to make sure that whatever campsite they reserve can accommodate their equipment. Sites 2-30 are available by reservation only during the peak season (May-October). Reservations must be made at least three days ahead of arrival.
Campground B is located just a short distance from Campground A and is reserved for tent-camping only. This site also has access to the showers and restrooms that Campground A uses. In fact, the shower building is conveniently located just across the road from the campground. This campsite is perfect for campers who want a more rustic camping experience.
Campsites 31-80 are available on a first-come, first-served basis year-round. The remaining campsites, numbers 2-30, are available by reservation only during peak season months (May-October) but are available on a first-come, first-served basis during the rest of the year. Campers will want to arrive early to ensure they get a campsite, especially if they plan to stay through the weekend.
There are three campsites designed for organized group camping: Camp Potawatomi, Camp Piasa, and Camp Ouatoga. These camping areas are fully equipped with kitchens, a dining hall, and cabins for sleeping in. Each campground also has its own restrooms and showers. Groups will need to apply for these group campgrounds ahead of time by submitting an application to the park via their website.
Additionally, there is a Youth Camp Ground known as Duncan Hill that is a tent-only campsite. This site comes with picnic tables and drinking water. Be aware that the only restrooms available in this campground are pit-type toilets.
In addition to the campgrounds, the park also offers two Rent-A-Camp cabins that are available by reservation only. These cabins are located within Campground A and can sleep up to six people each. The cabins have two bedrooms and come furnished with basic essentials. Also included with each cabin is a picnic table, grill, fire pit, and shower.
The Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center is the perfect option for campers who seek more modern comforts during their overnight stay. There are 72 guest rooms available, and each room comes with amenities such as a private bath, heating and air conditioning, cable television, and more. The Lodge offers several different room options from which visitors can pick when booking their stay. A select number of guest rooms are located inside of the lodge's cabins. Each cabin has three separate guest rooms that can be booked individually. The cabin offers guests a slightly more secluded experience with the same level of luxury that they would encounter in the Lodge.
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 surrounding natural beauty. There are nine scenic overlooks in total, spread out along the trails. The trails are easy to follow and are marked for hikers' convenience. If traveling with small children, the Ravine Trail is a great option at only a half-mile long. Visitors who are seeking a longer, more challenging hike will want to try the 2.5-mile Fern Hollow Trail.
Fishing along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers is a popular recreational activity at Pere Marquette State Park. With boat launches readily available in the park, it's easy to get out and find a secluded spot to fish. 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 Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair is held annually in the park and is a great opportunity to fish as a family. For visitors who do not own their own boat, rentals are available.
Adrenaline junkies will love Pere Marquette State Park's rock climbing. While the limestone formations may not be suitable for beginners, experienced climbers and repellers will have a ball. Adventurous climbers can pack their trad racks for any of the dozens of trad climbs in the park, and sport climbers can send any of the dozens of bolted routes. The routes in the park range from 5.7 (easy) to 5.11 (difficult), so there's something for every level of climber.
The Visitor Center is open year-round and features a 3D map of the park. The exhibits within the Visitor Center teach visitors about the natural, cultural, and geologic history of the park. These engaging exhibits also educate visitors about the wildlife in and along the Illinois River. Be sure not to leave without stopping by the gift shop and picking up a memento to remember Pere Marquette State Park.
A favorite for bird lovers year-round, Pere Marquette State Park is home to over 200 species of birds. Although visitors won't be able to see all of the birds that call the park home, they can spot some of the most popular birds during the winter months. Bald eagles are known to perch in the trees and fly high above the park during the wintertime, 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 features over 20 miles of bridle trails that offer an excellent way to explore the 8,000-acre park. Some of these trails are seasonal and are not open during the whole year. Guests should be aware that during the off-season the Pere Marquette Stables is closed, so visitors will have to bring their own horse if they plan on exploring on horseback.