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The Great River Road

Savanna

Across the Mississippi from Iowa, Savanna, Illinois, is an old railroad town that has grown into an antiques center, offering a large antiques mini-mall along the main drag. Savanna maintains a few pretty Victorian mansions up on the heights, but for a truly attractive vista, take a detour north along Hwy-84 from the end of the Iowa bridge to the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park (815/273-2731), with its great eroded bluffs (popular with rock climbers), 13 miles of hiking trails (brilliant fall color in the forested ravines), and fine river views. There’s camping too, with hot showers and RV hookups.

Between Savanna and the I-80 beltway around the Quad Cities are nearly 50 flat miles of river valley, dotted with small historic river and railroad towns mixed in with new commercial and residential construction. Agriculture is conspicuous too, and the sandy soils around Savanna are famous for their melon crops. While the Mississippi for the most part stays invisible from the GRR, the industry on its banks is clearly evident, especially at night. River access is via a handful of recreation areas in the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

LeClaire

On the northeastern edge of the Quad Cities, just off the I-80 freeway, lies the little town of LeClaire (pop. 3,765), famous once for its river pilots but now best remembered as William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s home. The Buffalo Bill Museum (199 N. Front St., 563/289-5580, daily, $5), on the waterfront, is dedicated to Cody’s life. LeClaire is also home to the Faithful Pilot (117 N. Cody Rd., 563/289-4156), on LeClaire’s main street (US-67). One of the best restaurants in the entire Quad Cities region, the Faithful Pilot has creative high-quality cuisine, a good wine list, fine microbrews, and seating with views over the river.