ROCK ISLAND – Oftentimes it would seem more convenient to walk on water than find a bridge. It’s possible downriver from the Sauk Valley.
A new exhibit at the Mississippi River Visitor Center at Rock Island Arsenal does not have a bridge to offer, but it can give the feeling of walking on water. This floor map shows land and water on the Mississippi River Project. The locks and dams are there, as well as recreational areas.
New computer screens enhance the center showing views from wildlife display cameras. And 15 hand-painted and hand-carved area fish add to the ambiance.
Visitors will discover an observation area where they can look at the Mississippi River and boats going through Locks and Dam 15. This is the spot to be when traffic is going up and down the river. Other features at the center are exhibits, a theater, and gift shop.
Located on the west side of Rock Island Arsenal, Mississippi River Visitor Center is in a military installation. However, there is no reason to be nervous. Visitors just need to go through a security checkpoint. Those 16 and older must show photo identification, and guards will ask what the destination of the journey is. Vehicles also are subject to search. If visitors are not citizens of the U.S., they should contact the visitor center at least a week before making the trip.
In the summer, travelers will find lock and dam tours at the center and a number of programs run by the rangers. The spot also is known for eagle watching. The best times are January through March. Don’t forget to stop and look at the boats going through the lock if it is April through mid-December.
While at Arsenal Island, travelers can combine the visitor center with other sites. For example, the Rock Island Arsenal Museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Here guests will find a history of small weapons and other displays. The museum has some age on it, it was started in 1905. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. There is no charge.
Col. George Davenport’s Home is open May through October, so the weather needs to be a little bit warmer before travelers can head there. The house dates back to 1833. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for kids.
Another warm-weather spot, the Arsenal Golf Course is for public use. It sits on the banks of the Mississippi, which adds to the course’s beauty.
The public also can view Fort Armstrong, which was abandoned in 1836. A replica blockhouse can be seen.
The big draw is locks and dam tours from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from the visitor center. Reservations are recommended by calling 309-794-5338. Many facts can be absorbed on these tours, including information on barges, history, and river hazards.
If you go ...
What: Mississippi River Visitor Center
Where: 200 Rodman Ave., Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island
When: Rock Island Gate open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Center hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
Information: Call 309-794-5338