Friday, June 13, 2014

Piasa Park

Over the years, when we still lived in St.Louis, we always enjoyed crossing the Mississippi River and driving along the River Road in Alton.  Our usual ultimate destination were the apple and peach orchards, also strawberries fields, located north of Alton.  Just after passing the town of Alton we would look for the Piasa Bird on one of the many bluffs along the road.  The petroglyph has had many different homes along the Great River Road over the years, and last week when we again toured the area, we were pleased that the mural now has a permanent home on a bluff within a small state park of  Illinois.
The bird was first seen by Jacques Marquette in 1673.  He and a fellow French explorer discovered a painting of what was probably two "water monsters" on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near what is present day Alton.  By 1700 the image was no longer visible.  However, folk lore has kept his image alive.  Over the years he has been given the name "Piasa", the bird that devours men.  An interpretive sign in the park tells of the Native American legend which explains the dragon-like creature.  Many years ago he was said to have depopulated many villages of people, to the consternation of  Illini tribes.  Chief Ouatoga and his twenty brave warriors finally killed the monster with poison darts.
After viewing the Piasa, and walking around the small park, which also features some rather large caves from an old limestone quarry, we drove on to the Finn Inn for lunch.  That eating establishment has large aquariums at each dining table.  It always seems rather strange to me to be eating catfish all the while a rather large live catfish is glaring at you.  After a very good lunch we drove to Pere Marquette Park where we unloaded our bikes to travel for a short distance along the Great River Road.  It was rather warm to be doing anything strenuous.
Later, outside of the town of Brussels, we stopped at a produce stand.  Asparagus, strawberries lettuce are being picked in the fields presently.  The clerk at the stand told us it has not been a good years for the crops so far- too much rain.  We noticed that the corn crop in Illinois is behind the one in Missouri.  On a positive note, however, the peaches should be coming in two weeks!
We found the above can at the produce stand.  It has to be a joke, however I did not think to pick it up to see if it was an empty.  We have seen many dead possums on the road lately and they do not seem to be a tasty option, even if they are swimming in gravy with sweet potatoes!  Our usual route for the return trip home always includes a ferry ride across the Mississippi River on the Golden Eagle.

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