PERE MARQUETTE STATE PARK
A nature-lover's paradise, this 8,000-acre park is famous for the exceptional beauty of its fall colors and for its bald eagles during the winter. In addition to enjoying the spectacular view of the Illinois River and its backwaters from several points atop the bluffs, visitors can take advantage of a variety of year-round recreational opportunities, including horseback riding, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, and boating.
Pere Marquette's Visitor Center, opened in October 1997, welcomes you with a three-dimensional map of the park, a 300-gallon aquarium, and wealth of other displays and exhibits concerning the Illinois River, wildlife habitat, local history, and geology.
The history of Pere Marquette State Park centers around that of the Illinois River. The forces that formed the river can be traced to ancient glaciers that pushed their way down over most of Illinois, but stopped just short of the park land. In the path of the glaciers and their meltwaters, a rich network of streams and rivers were formed, and tons of soil and bedrock were ground to dust which rose and blew up against the hillsides. These ancient layers of wind-blown soil, called Loess (pronounced "less") can be seen along the roads and trails of Pere Marquette.
Gradual climate changes over thousands of years made the region an ideal environment for prairie grasses and plants which eventually covered two-thirds of Illinois. Deciduous forest, dominated by oak and hickory, held their ground along rivers, streams and upland hills protected from prairie fires.
Throughout the hills, ravines, and prairies, native American people hunted game, gathered food, and later made homes. Archaeologists describe six native American cultures common to this region. Evidence of their presence here have been found in the form of fragments of pottery, spear points, and planting tools. Burial mounds also are distributed throughout the park, including one atop McAdams Peak.
When Europeans began to explore the Illinois country, most of the Native Americans they met were members of the Illini tribe. The first of these explorers, in 1673, was a group led by Louis Joliet, a cartographer, and Pere (Father) Jacques Marquette, a french Jesuit missionary. Marquette and Joliet, accompanied by French voyageurs, paddled down the Mississippi River in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean. On the Mississippi Bluffs, they encountered something which has become a local legend: "we saw . . two painted monsters which at first made us afraid and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes." They learned that the creature was part bird, with the face of a man, scales like a fish, horns like a deer, a long black tail. The creature was called Piasa. A representation of the Piasa Bird is still maintained in paint on the bluffs about twenty miles from the park.
Learning from the Native Americans that the Mississippi River emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, Marquette and Joliet turned back, returning by way of the Illinois River and stopping near what is now Pere Marquette State Park. A large stone cross east of the park entrance commemorates their historic landing here.
Generations later, local civic groups sought to preserve this land by the river as a state park. They raised money and were successful in persuading the state to match their funds for the purchase of the land in 1931. The newly created state park was to be called Piasa Bluffs. By popular demand, it was soon renamed Pere Marquette State Park in honor of the adventurous French missionary.
If you prefer a more rustic experience, Pere Marquette offers a wide range of camping opportunities:
Our Class A campground has 80 sites, two of which are handicap accessible. Sites have electrical hookups, with a sanitary dump station, drinking water, and a shower building available on the grounds. Sites 2-30 are available for reservation from May through October. The nearby Class B tent camping area also has access to the shower building.
Within the Class A campground, the park offers two Rent-A-Camp cabins Rent-A-Camp cabin.
Popular among scout groups is the Youth Tent Camp Area, also known as Duncan Hill. This separate campground offers a picnic shelter and tables, pit-type toilets, and drinking water.
For large organized groups, Pere Marquette operates three Organized Group Camps. Camp Potawatomi accommodates 68 campers; Camp Piasa and Camp Ouatoga will each accommodate 145. All three camps feature fully-equipped kitchens and dining rooms, lighted sleeping cabins with cots and mattresses, and restroom facilities with warm showers and flush toilets. Camps Piasa and Ouatoga also feature swimming pools.
Reservations for all types of camping are accepted by mail only beginning on the first working day in January. Reservations may be made by telephone or in person beginning February 1st. We accept MasterCard and Visa for all fees. Contact our Visitor Center for more information.
Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center was originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, but has been expanded and updated in recent years. Today, native stone and rustic timbers of the original Lodge blend with the new to provide first class accommodations in an historical setting. The mammoth stone fireplace in the lobby soars to a roof height of 50 feet, and is said to weigh 700 tons.
There are 50 spacious guest rooms and 22 stone guest cabin rooms. Among the facilities available are a cocktail lounge, gift shop, indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, saunas, game room and tennis court.
Pere Marquette Lodge provides elegant dining, with a Sunday brunch that draws people from Missouri as well as Illinois. The dining room seats 150 people and offers a choice of family style dining or selections from the menu.
The 2,900 square-foot conference center has banquet facilities to accommodate 300, and a comprehensive selection of audio/visual equipment. The center breaks into four separate meeting rooms.
For more information or reservations, write Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center, Route 100, PO Box 429, Grafton, IL 62037, or call (618) 786-2331, fax (618) 786-3498.
Launching ramps and ample parking provide access to the river, with courtesy docks available when weather conditions and river levels permit. Future plans include a full-service marina.