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Illinois 84 offers change of scenery

This area is blessed with many things, but let's face it, folks, a variety of scenery isn't one of them.

In winter, when even the most stubborn trees give up their leaves and the farmfields look like barren black lakes, look out over the horizon. Is that the curvature of the earth?

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

Sam and Jan McKay enjoy watching the winter wildlife along the Mississippi River from their deck overlooking the river in Hampton. Not only do they like the winter scenes, they also enjoy boating on the river.

Summers usually are better, but not by much. Look too closely and the corridors of harvest-time corn close in on you faster than an elevator full of fat guys.

But for a change of pace, take a drive along Illinois 84, or the Great River Road. Beautiful vistas of the mighty Mississippi on the left, sweeping, bluffed banks of trees to the right. What better cure for bored eyeballs?

So crawl out of the Lazy Boy, top off the tank and head north. You'll find every stop is a place to start.

-- Hampton: It's a long way from Yellowstone or Yosemite, but if you're looking to get away, but not far away, Fisherman's Corner is a nice spot.

The recently opened Class A certified campground has 25 campsites with cement vehicle pads, a sewer dumping station, custodians, electrical hookups, a central shower house and a dynamite view of the river.

Fisherman's Corner is adjacent to Illiniwek Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the Quad-Cities area. One section of the park, which includes campsites, runs along the river, while the section on the other side of Ill. 84 is mostly forested bluffs that are a favorite wintering home for eagles. Lock and Dam 14, adjacent to the park, is known as a premier fishing spot.

-- Rapids City: Although a small town, it has some very big houses atop the bluff, probably one of the best views along the river.

-- Port Byron: Stop for a quick 18 holes at Byron Hills, but bring an extra sleeve of balls and enough cash to spring for a cart. They don't call the par-71 course Byron ``Hills'' for nothing.

-- Cordova: Projections of more tourism spurred by the much awaited Great River Trail have fostered a fresh interest in community development. A few new businesses have opened in the town, which used to be one of the nation's leaders in the production of clam shell buttons.

The town has the Boat House Restaurant, a 130-year-old bed and breakfast, and the Leisure Harbor Leisure Inn, owned by Bob and Linda Van Hoorweghe, who hope to build a 52-slip marina on the riverfront.

-- Albany: Albany is home to Albany Mounds State Historic Site, 208 acres of the largest known Hopewell culture site in Illinois. It has 39 burial mounds and part of a village founded by the Indians, who disappeared around 500 A.D.

Albany enforces Ill. 84's growing reputation as an antique corridor. Doug, Darren and David Naftzger, known as Naftzger Inc., have restored two of the village's oldest buildings, now River Brethren Antiques and the Albany Antique Mall.

-- Fulton: Heritage Canyon, 515 N. 4th St., has been the No. 1 tourist attraction in Whiteside County for almost 10 years and is a must for the history buff. The 12 acres feature a mid-1800s Illinois settlement, including a rock quarry, log-cabin settlement with root cellar and storm cave, wagon workshop, 52-foot covered bridge, church, waterwheel mill, 1860s house, outhouse, doctor's office, blacksmith's shop and school house. A main street will be completed soon and have a mortuary, carriage works, post office and complete printing shop. Whew -- and all in Harold Wierenga's backyard.

Lock and Dam 13 offers fishing, hunting and primitive camping.

-- Thomson: Buck's Barn and Resort offers 57 motel rooms, a restaurant, an 18-hole golf course, a museum of 18 classic cars, and a stable of miniature horses. It also has McGinnis' market, a popular outdoor fruit and vegetable market.

-- Savanna: Home of the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park, sitting on huge, wooded bluffs overlooking the river. The park has camping, fishing, hiking, cycling and climbing. Nearby is the 46,000-acre Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Savanna is an antiquer's mecca, with JT Bradley's Antiques and Eatery and the Pulford Opera House Antique Mall, both in beautiful, old, ornate buildings.

There also is the Savanna Train Project, one of the few existing railroad-passenger cars used by the Milwaukee Railroad until 1971. It is filled with railroad memorabilia but is open only on weekends.

That's just part of the charm of Ill. 84, which continues on to historic, picturesque Galena.

-- By Todd Welvaert (January 26, 1998)

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