The heart of Illinois beats true and strong in the communities that make up the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. This route – from Ottawa in the north to Havana in the south – is filled with breathtaking wonders of nature, rich history and culture, exciting recreational experiences and welcoming shops and restaurants. For warm, Midwestern hospitality and authentic experiences, follow the river – the Illinois River Road! Illinois River Road – Northern LegSpanning from Ottawa to Princeton, 1.5-2 hours from Chicagoland area, Rockford or Davenport, IALeave the concrete jungle behind and travel to an area that always welcomes visitors in search of new adventures and tributes from the past. The northernmost span of the Illinois River Road allows you to explore mile after mile of well-marked hiking trails, each with its own set of surprises. Climb up towering canyons and hear the rush of amazing waterfalls or get a glimpse of young fawns frolicking on the colorfully-carpeted forest floor. Water lovers can paddle serenely in a canoe along the banks of quiet inlets or ramp up the adventure with a frothy, whitewater rafting trip. Whether your eyes are trained to the skies in search of a bald eagle or focused on finding one of Illinois’ five remaining covered bridges, you’re sure to see a land of thrills and history along the northern leg of the Illinois River Road. Illinois River Road – Central LegFrom Henry through Peoria to Pekin, 2-3 hours from either Chicago, St. Louis or IndianapolisLions, tigers and bison? Oh my! Discover creatures both native and foreign when you visit the middle portion of the Illinois River Road. Overlook herds of majestic bison and elk as they graze in gently-rolling green pastures or observe wolves, foxes and bears as they nestle in their wooded surroundings. With the chance to see exotic animals such as giraffes, lions, zebras, tigers, wallabies and more, your journey in central Illinois can easily transcend to the lands of Africa, Asia and Australia as well. After this walk-on-the-wild-side, consider unwinding on the water as Calliope music welcomes you aboard an authentic paddlewheel-driven boat that gently makes its way along the banks of the Illinois River. Or stop in for a day of exploration and fun inside the planetarium, children’s discovery center, galleries or manufacturing exhibits at one of several local museums. Whether making animal acquaintances or stimulating the senses, there’s lots to see and do along the central portion of the Illinois River Road. Illinois River Road – Southern LegCanton down to Havana, an easy day-trip from Bloomington, Champaign or QuincyTune out the sounds and stress of the modern world with a visit to the southern stretch of the Illinois River Road. A trip here will allow you to immerse yourself inside thousands of acres of wildlife refuge –pristine land where birds, fish and other wildlife are waiting to be discovered. Pull out the binoculars for a glimpse at a majestic bald eagle, osprey or migrating pelican, or just sit back and listen to the melody of an area songbird, with only the rustling of the trees as its accompanist. Boaters and anglers-alike will find it hard to resist the allure of the many marshes, lakes and riverfront banks dotted throughout the region. Whether you hunt, canoe or camp, your commune with the outdoor world can also include time at a museum that pays tribute to the lives and history of the Native Americans who called this land home for 12,000 years. Nowhere are the wonders of nature more apparent than in the southern portion of the Illinois River Road.