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Spotlight: Riverlands Audubon Center and National Great Rivers Museum, Illinois and Missouri

Spotlight: Riverlands Audubon Center and National Great Rivers Museum, Illinois and Missouri

Birds Clark Bridge Great egrets congregate in front of the dramatic Clark Bridge over the Mississippi. (Charlie Deutsch/USACE)

What You’ll Find

Visitors and birds flock to this recreation area near the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, where the Audubon Center at Riverlands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and National Great Rivers Museum together protect an internationally significant area along the Mississippi Flyway, one of the most important migratory bird flyways in the world. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ unique partnership with the National Audubon Society is just one example of the Army Corps’ commitment to conservation.

Learn about the 3,700-acre sanctuary in the video Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary: A Spectacle of Birds.

Getting There

The complex is near the Clark Bridge, 25 miles north of St. Louis in West Alton, Missouri and includes the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, the Audubon Center at Riverlands and the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Visit the Army Corps’ National Great Rivers Museum page for directions, hours and other information or download a map (pdf) of the area.

Stay Here

Visit All Around Alton Illinois for lodging options or try Pere Marquette State Park an 8,000-acre nature-lovers’ paradise in Grafton, Illinois (20 miles upstream from the Riverlands Sanctuary) for campsites, cabins or accommodations at the lodge. Pere Marquette State Park is at the northern end of the Sam Vadalabene Trail which follows the Great River Road Scenic Byway on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, making it an ideal starting point for bicyclists and birders alike to reach the sanctuary. From the Sam Vadalabene, leave the trail at Alton and cross the Clark Bridge.

Try This

Enjoy the National Great Rivers Museum’s 20 interactive exhibits about the area’s nature and history or join a guided tour of the Melvin Price Lock and Dam. Try your hand as a riverboat captain in the museum’s pilot house which features simulator-based software used to train river pilots.

The Audubon Center at Riverlands draws birders from around the world who hope to see the extremely rare Eurasian tree sparrow and other bird species. The Center offers interactive exhibits, a picnic area, a wrap-around deck for bird watching and 8.5 miles of hiking trails.

On Saturday, May 17, join the Great Rivers Festival, a day-long series of events celebrating the river and its vital connection between nature and the shipping industry. There will be children's activities, food vendors, live entertainment, living history and tours of the locks and dam or of Dredge Potter, the oldest working member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging fleet. Festival attendees can also try one of close to 50 different types of canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards. For more information about the festival, call the National Great Rivers Museum at (618) 462-6979 or visit the Meeting of the Rivers Foundation website.

Don’t Forget

Experience bird and wildlife watching by kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board. Even novice paddlers can enjoy the river— when the Corps closes the Melvin Price Lock and Dam, the river current calms dramatically. Rent a canoe or kayak in the village of Godfrey, about seven miles upriver.

Get Started!

To plan your trip, check the Audubon Center at Riverlands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary page, the Meeting of the Rivers Foundation or the Alton (Illinois) Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Did You Know?

Dozens of endangered least terns fledge from the Riverlands area each year thanks to the Corps of Engineers’ scuttled barge, converted to safe nesting habitat.

The Mississippi River is a globally significant migratory flyway that provides nesting, resting and feeding habitat for 60 percent of the migratory bird species in North America, and 40 percent of North American waterfowl. In all, over 300 species of birds migrate along the Mississippi Flyway.

Teachers—explore the Teacher Resources page or contact the Museum at (618) 462-6979 to find out about classrooms programs like “Bonkers for Birds.” Park rangers from the National Great Rivers Museum offer the program each fall to St. Louis Metro area classrooms and help students learn about the Mississippi Flyway and its birds. Each participating class completes a project on a different bird species and competes for honors at the Masters of the Sky event each February.