Prior to my recent trip, I was completely oblivious to the beauty and history jammed packed into a town located at the confluence of three amazing rivers…the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers all around Alton, Illinois. As soon as I arrived, I could feel the vigor of a town filled with life and energy. Ready to explore it all, my very first stop was the new Audubon Center at the Riverlands. The Riverlands provide a refuge for all kinds of migrating and nesting birds for every season. While visiting, I was able to learn all about the conservation efforts along the Mississippi River, the different types of birds that pass through during the year, try some of the interactive displays and take in the magnificence of the expansive view of the Mississippi River. It was also nice to learn that not only does the center teach the importance of conservation, but it’s constructed to LEED Silver Standards with several energy efficient features.
On my trip, I learned a great deal about what made Alton so special and the history behind it all. I was amazed to learn of an Alton-born gentleman by the name of Robert Wadlow, who grew to be 8 feet and 11.1 inches tall and still reigns as the tallest man to ever live. A person being almost 9 feet tall is a bit hard to fathom until you actually stand next to the life sized statue of Wadlow, located in Upper Alton. I also learned quite a bit about Alton residents’ participation in the Underground Railroad. We walked through the cobblestone streets, visiting key locations known as safe places of refuge for groups of slaves waiting to move to their next destination. It was during this tour that I realized Alton was filled with several hills and scenic overlooks. Our tour guide, Eric, had a story for every turn and was well informed on Alton’s past. The tour ended in an Upper Alton Cemetery, where we learned about the life of Wadlow, the meaning behind his Monument, and what his life meant to the River town of Alton.
Of course, no trip is complete without a warm and cozy place to retreat after a long day’s work of fact finding and exploring. I had the pleasure of checking in at the Haagen Haus, located on a hill in Alton’s Historic Christian Hill District. Far from your ordinary Hotel stay, the Haagen Haus guesthouse amazed me with a well decorated, quaint space that seemed to fit perfectly into Alton’s laid back and historic vibe. The beautifully preserved home included two fireplaces, a fully stocked kitchen, private courtyard and many modern amenities. As I settled down for the evening, I couldn’t help but wonder what my second day in Alton would bring, as I was eager to learn more.
Stay tuned to see my next destination in Alton!