Leaving Burlington, Iowa in our rear view mirror, we decided to follow the Great River Bridge over the Mississippi River and into Illinois. As we got over the bridge toward the town of Gulfport, Illinois, we ventured west on highway 34 almost all the way to Biggsville, Illinois and then went south on highway 94.
This turned out to be a very picturesque drive with many corn fields and quaint little towns like Stronghurst, Terre Haute and Lomax along the way. When highway 94 turned into highway 96 it went back West. This brought us back to the Mississippi River again. As we were starting over the trestled bridge over the river, what did we see coming our way but a train with about 100 cars on it?
Where we were sitting at the time, the traffic was blocked and as you may have already guessed, we and the train did not take the same path. We did however take the same bridge. This bridge also spins so that the barges going up and down the river can get by. Little did I know, but Fort Madison is the Mississippi river crossing and station stop for Amtrak's Southwest Chief.
This Fort Madison bridge is also the last remaining double swing-span bridge on the Mississippi River, a top level for cars and a bottom level for trains; it is also the world's largest. You may be able to tell from the photos, but it really was quiet impressive.
When we got to Fort Madison, we went and checked out the old fort (from which) the city got its name. The original Fort Madison, the Midwest's oldest American military garrison on the upper Mississippi River, was erected shortly after the signing of a treaty in 1804, which ceded lands east of the Mississippi to Americans in exchange for $1,000 per year and the condition that the tribes could continue to reside there until the land was surveyed and sold by the U.S. government. But I was a little disappointed to find out that the original Fort Madison was burned to the ground by its own soldiers as they fled from the Native Americans. A replica of the original fort was erected in 1983 and serves as an interactive museum.
About the time we got done checking out the fort, we saw that there was a large barge going up the Mississippi. We quickly went to the highest point around, which happened to be the third floor of a riverboat casino that was docked on the river. We asked the security guard if we could go up to the top deck for a view and he said; "Sure" and then explained to us how to get up there. Of course I had my camera at the ready and tried to capture the bridge turning on its pivot. It was really a joy to watch, even though it seemed like it took forever for it to happen.
According to the Sauk leader Black Hawk, his people did not understand why a fort was being built, and they were told it was for a trader, who could offer them great provisions. The Sauk, due to a promise from Washington, hoped to receive goods from the trader at Fort Madison on credit, but they were denied. This, Black Hawk says, is the reason the Sauk decided to side with the British during the war.
Well... and who can really blame them? But this trip for us was really fun. We saw corn being harvested, we saw very pretty little farms in both Illinois and Iowa that looked like a picture postcard. And... that bridge was very fun.“People may or may not say what they mean... but they always say something designed to get what they want.”
~ David Mamet