Pere Marquette State Park

The Great River Road in Illinois
Between Pere Marquette State Park and Alton
(taken on our way home)

After we left the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site, we went the way of a couple of other explorers who, like Lewis and Clark, had also been in the area searching for an all water route to the Pacific Ocean.

Those explorers were Jacques Marquette, also known as Pere Marquette, and Louis Jolliet.

Marquette was a French, Jesuit missionary, and Jolliet was a French-Canadian explorer. Marquette and Jolliet began their explorations in 1673, 131 years before Lewis and Clark set out in 1804 on basically the same mission.

Many years later, in 1931, Pere Marquette State Park was created and named after Marquette. And many years after that, Dan and I visited the area once again to explore and enjoy its natural beauty.

While Grafton and Pere Marquette State Park are only about an hour from our home, on this visit, we stayed overnight in the park’s lodge. This little excursion was one of Dan’s Christmas gifts from me. It was a great gift, as I got to enjoy it, too. Plus, it’s so hard to think of good gifts for Dan. I’ll likely use this idea again. Dan, forget you read that.

Massive Fireplace in the Lobby
The restaurant is through those doors on the left.

The gift was also a bargain – one I couldn’t pass up. In January and February, the park offers the “Eagle Days” package. In March and April, the package is called “Spring Fling,” and in September, the package is called “Fall into Fall.” Whatever the name is, here’s the deal.

This year, the price was $134. This included one room, double occupancy AND two dinners, two drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) AND two breakfasts. Plus tax – and a tip for the restaurant workers, of course. Normally, the meals are chosen off a limited (but adequate) menu; however, this year – due to a shortage of workers – the meals offered were all you can eat buffets.

The buffets offered a number of choices. The food was hot and delicious. We ate too much as always happens whenever we visit a buffet – which is why we normally avoid them. But this opportunity seemed to be a blessing from above, so we took advantage of it.

Our visit did have activities besides eating. We walked over to the Visitor’s Center the afternoon we arrived. There we watched three short movies. One about the park, one about eagle watching, and one about the CCC’s work in the park.

The lodge we stayed in was built by the CCC, and it is a beautiful building. The lodge looks out to the Illinois River and provides a sweeping porch from which to watch the sunsets. The confluence of the Illinois and Missouri Rivers is just downstream, right before the town of Grafton.

Sunset over the Illinois River

One can request a view of the river when a reservation is made. However, I didn’t learn this tip until a couple days before our arrival. So, our room looked out into the park. This was fine as we spent very little time in our room.

The park also offers eagle walks led by an expert eagle spotter. While these free walks are offered several times a week, they are not offered every day. Unfortunately, an eagle walk was not scheduled on the days we visited.

In the evening, we enjoyed the lodge’s massive and beautiful lobby. There, we played our Scrabble and Rummikub games. For full disclosure, I should add that the furniture in the lobby was somewhat uncomfortable to sit and play board games. Even so, we made it work. We also played ping pong in a little side room down the hall. There is an indoor heated pool; although, we didn’t take advantage of it.

Pere Marquette Lobby
I remember the chess set from when I was growing up!

There were lots of folks enjoying the lobby, playing games or sitting by the huge fireplace and visiting with others or simply reading. It was a common site to see older couples walking through the large lobby, on their way to the restaurant, with their meal vouchers in hand. Everyone there, except the workers, were older, retired folk. Did I mention the deal is only offered Monday through Thursday?

The next morning, we enjoyed our breakfast buffet, took an invigorating walk outside. We walked through the mostly empty campground. At the edge of the campground and on park property is an historic church and a cemetery with graves dating back to the 1800s.

Hartford ME Church
Established 1876
Not to be disrespectful,
but I wonder whatever happened to Bessie.

Then we enjoyed the lobby just a bit more. We played a few games of Scrabble before checking out at about one minute before 11. We enjoyed every minute of our time at Pere Marquette State Park. We’ll likely take advantage of this deal in future years, God-willing.

Our “Eagle Days” package was coming to an end. However, we would see one more eagle before we arrived back home in St. Charles. I hope I don’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, but I’m sorry, dear readers, you’ll just have to wait a bit. Details are in my next post.


  1. We stayed in the lodge way too long ago and I have nearly forgotten how nice it was. Thanks for your post to remind us of the need to visit the park again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad my post brought back happy memories for you. The ferry was not operating since it was winter, so we had the “long” drive to Grafton. But that gave us a chance to see some things along that route. There were a number of folks playing games in the lobby. Playing games is one of my favorite things to do – especially with a few others. It seems we always end up laughing. Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That was a fantastic hotel deal, Betty! I very much enjoyed your recap and your photos. I remember learning about those explorers (as well as about Lewis and Clark) in high school history class. Canadian school students learn a lot about USA history and geography (at least we did when I went to school – I’m not certain of today’s curriculum). Thanks for taking us along on another adventure! I’m looking forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Terry! It’s interesting that you learned about Lewis and Clark in school. I’m sorry to say, I don’t remember learning anything about Canada in my school days. I do hope Dan and I can explore a bit of Canada someday in our travel trailer. And yes, that hotel deal was a bargain! Apparently, the September deal fills us fast as it is close to the time of the leaves changing colors, and that is a really beautiful time to visit the area. Although, I like visiting that area anytime. Hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Betty, I have been going to Pere Marquette State Park since I was a child. We went there on picnics with my family and grandmother. I loved the Lodge there. You have given me a great idea for a winter weekend. Mike loves to take eagle photos. Sounds like you and Dan had a lovely weekend. I think we will do this next winter. Thanks for the idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Barb! My family visited Pere Marquette many times when I was growing up. Great memories! The Visitor Center had a brochure with the dates of the eagle walks. If we go again, I may try to schedule our stay when there is an eagle walk. Mike takes such amazing, artful pictures, I can only imagine how beautiful his pictures would be. The sunsets are beautiful, too. Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your day!


    • You know, now that you say that about the lobby, it does kind of remind me of a national park lodge. The area is really nice. There is camping, a bike path to the nearby town of Grafton – which has lots to offer. It’s close by, but whenever we go there, I feel like I am on a trip. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another amazing adventure of Betty and Dan on the road again! I tried to find out about Bessie, but alas, nothing helpful. Enos appears in the census when he was living with his family, and death records, but no mention of Bessie. I searched under Elizabeth as well in case that was a birth name. Since she would have been only 20 at his death, perhaps she remarried and is buried elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew I could count on you. Of all the readers, I thought you’d be the one who would research it. I tried, too, through our online library access to historical records. My guess is the same as yours – that she likely remarried and is elsewhere. He was so young! I’m guessing they were madly in love, and that their story shall forever remain a mystery. Thanks for researching, and enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I thought of the same possibility. I hope we are right! And yes, it was a nice getaway. We haven’t been camping in a while, so it was nice to get away.
      Have a great week!


  5. What a fantastic deal! And what an amazing place. I learned so much from your post. I had never heard of those two explorers before. I think its great that you found another gem so close to home. You have me looking for a close by place now for a quick get-away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bill. I have been going to Pere Marquette since I was a young girl. And the names of Marquette and Jolliet have long been ingrained in my brain – from those visits as a young girl. The deal was great – especially with the added bonus of the buffets. I like a big breakfast! It was close to home, but we really felt like we got away. It was very nice. Hope you and Barb are doing well and having a good week.


    • Beth, you are so right. I often think of winter as just being cold, but really, winter scenery can be so beautiful. So serene. The CCC work is amazing there; the massive stone fireplace is an icon. Thanks for your comment, and I hope you have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That is a wonderful Christmas gift! I wrote it down on my “places to go” document. 🙂
    I looked up Bessie on find a grave ( but didn’t see her. Enos is there, though. He passed away young. Kevin and I like to stroll through cemeteries and wonder about the people and their lives.
    So glad you had a great trip! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome! I really like the whole Grafton area. There is lots to do – whatever the season. There is a campground in Pere Marquette. Thanks for trying to find Bessie. She probably remarried and is buried under a different name. I just thought it was curious that her name was put on that marker. My theory is they were so in love, they wanted to be by each other forever. But then life went on. I also wonder how Enos passed away. So, I guess I wonder sometimes, too. Have a good day!


      • Kevin and I found an interesting one in Needles, CA. The husband died the day before Christmas and the wife died the day after Christmas, same year, 1943. I did all the researching I could to try to find out what happened. Sickness? Accident? How knows.

        Liked by 1 person

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