Three and a half years ago I moved to the Quad Cities from my hometown in Central Illinois. Though I’m not a native, I have come to love it here; Whitey’s Ice Cream, local craft beers, and the Figge Art Museum have all found a place in my heart. Here are a few local outdoor attractions that I recommend. From hiking and camping to biking and boating, there’s something for everybody so get out there and have a great time at one (or all) of these local spots.
You’ll often find me hiking the six-mile trail system at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island. I find it very relaxing here, with a lovely view of the Rock River; if you follow the trail running alongside the river you can’t miss the observation platform. There you can spend a few moments taking in the sights and sounds of the birds, the breeze, and the water flowing downstream.
You can also hike on the North side of Black Hawk Road and spend some time exploring the park’s wooded trails. You can see the Dickson Pioneer Cemetery and the abandoned coal mine, and be sure to check out the Hauberg Indian Museum before you leave.
The City of Rock Island committed seven years to fashion a former industrial property into the delightful park you can find here today. The buildings were carefully removed, leaving an architectural skeleton that serves as the backdrop for this naturalized demonstration area where visitors can learn about reducing storm water runoff; to this end, the park uses permeable paving, native prairie plants, and bioswails to slow the rush of water to the river. You can read more about these steps and why they’re important on displays at the naturalized area.
The park offers a great view the Mississippi River. You’ll be able to see across the river to Arsenal Island, the Arsenal Power Dam, as well as Sylvan Island. The area is accessible by foot or by bicycle via the Rock Island segment of the Great River Trail, and there is also parking available as well. Those interested in wildlife will have a great view of pelicans in the spring and early summer, and bald eagles in the winter.
Part of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, Illiniwek is a great spot to hike or camp. Located in Hampton Illinois, right along the Mississippi River, this site is close to home but still offers plenty of fun. If you’re looking to camp, you can choose spots with water and electric hookup for your RV or trailer, but there are also plenty of spots to pitch your tent facing the river. You’ll find hiking trails, mountain biking, some great spots for fishing, and boat ramp access to the Mississippi River.
The Great River Trail goes right through the site as well, so that entire path is available for you to ride. You could even bike to the campsite itself if you’re so inclined! If you’re aiming to hike, hit the trail on the South side of Highway 84. There’s a couple different options on the map posted in the parking lot, as well as a sign indicating the start of the trail to the scenic overlook. If you head that way, you’ll have to climb some stairs on your hike, but it’ll be worth it when you reach the top and you’re treated to a great view of the river. As a hiker, keep in mind that some of the trails are open to mountain biking, so be alert and respectful of others on the trails.
Like Illiniwek, Loud Thunder Forest Preserve in Illinois City, is part of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, and is similarly close to the Quad Cities. This preserve has a number of different camping opportunities; with five different campgrounds here to choose from you’re sure to find one that suits you. You can tent camp near the banks of the Mississippi River, or surrounded by the woods if you prefer. There’s a site just for those of you who want to bring your horses for the equestrian trails, as well as an RV site for those who prefer to bring the comforts of home with them.
If you’re interested in getting out on the water, Loud Thunder rents a variety of watercraft with which you can explore Lake George. Canoes and kayaks are available for those looking to paddle, but if you’re looking for a little more relaxation or perhaps some good fishing, they’ve also got jon boats, small two-person pontoon boats, and even party barges.
This 1280-acre park, nine miles north of Davenport IA, is home to great hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming in a heated Olympic sized swimming pool, and fishing on Pride Lake. There are five different campgrounds for tents or RVs, and you’ll find modern restrooms and showers available throughout the park. While you’re there, stop by the Dan Nagle Walnut Grove Pioneer Village. History buffs and children of all ages will enjoy this circa 1860s stage coach stop. Climb aboard a passenger train car and explore eighteen historic buildings.
Just outside of Davenport you’ll find Nahant Marsh, a great place with a remarkable origin story. After more than thirty years of use as a sportsman’s club, the marsh contained high levels of lead causing severe negative effects on the plants and animals that lived there. Fortunately, the Iowa DNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, River Action, and the Quad City Audubon Society worked together to save the marsh. After the EPA declared the marsh a Superfund Site and engaged in an extensive cleanup project to remove the lead, the ecosystem became much healthier. The wetland became a nature preserve, dubbed Nahant Marsh and the former clubhouse was converted into an education center.
Visiting the marsh is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. They don’t have an extensive trail system, but there is a lot if diversity in the plants and animals there. You’ll see a number of different waterfowl from the bird blind, and if you’re lucky you just might catch a glimpse of the otters on the dock. The education center can introduce you and your family to different animals you might find in the marsh, and if you’re interested, Nahant offers naturalist-guided nature hikes around the marsh, the first Saturday of the month.
If you’re interested in mountain biking, consider a visit to Sunderbruch Park, a great place for some off-road riding in Davenport. There is something for all experience levels, from beginner to expert, and a variety of obstacles and challenges to overcome.
You can also find equestrian trails in Sunderbruch, if you’d rather be on horseback than on a bike, and a paved multi-use pathway through the park if you’re not ready to go off-road yet. This 1.3 mile paved pathway will be shared by cyclists, equestrians, and pedestrians, so be mindful of your surroundings and others on the path.
(PLEASE NOTE: Credit Island is currently closed. 7/11/2019) For a more casual cycling experience, consider pedaling around Credit Island, another of Davenport’s great community parks. You’ll share the loop (part of the Mississippi River Bike Trail) with fellow cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles, so be aware of your surroundings. Also be sure to pay attention to the Art in the Park; a wooden sculpture reproduction of Seurat’s painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”
There’s a disc golf course if you’re so inclined, a hiking trail on the southern end of the island, as well as a public boat ramp. During the spring, summer, and early fall, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and bikes on the island, and during the winter months, it’s a great spot for spotting bald eagles.
It’s time for an adventure!
Are you ready to get outside and explore? I hope this post has given you some ideas of places you’d like to visit in my neck of the woods.
Of course, these aren’t the only outdoor attractions that you’ll find in and around the Quad Cities, but this will get you started exploring the area. Looking for more? My friends at Let’s Move Quad Cities have crowd-sourced this great interactive map of awesome outdoor places in the area, so take a look and see if you can find a spot that’s right for you.
Whether you’re new here, just visiting, or lived here all your life, I’m glad you’re considering spending time having an adventure in some of the great outdoor attractions we have to offer. Don’t feel intimidated if you’re new to hiking or camping, just get out there and have fun!
This blog post was written and shared on this site by Wade Ellett. You can read the entire blog post and more on Wade’s blog at IntrepidDaily.com.