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September 3, 2018
Alton, Illinois: In Lincoln’s Footsteps

Today’s port, Alton, Illinois, is famous mainly for two things. First, Alton was the site of the seventh slavery debate between Abraham Lincoln Stephen Douglas. Second, Alton was the hometown of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man.

Our debarkation point was right next to the Argosy Casino

Our morning plan included using the hop-on hop-off bus to get to the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary was designated as an important Birding Area by the Audubon Society.

We took the walking path to Ellis Bay, but we didn’t see much in the way of birds. We then tried the walking path to Two Pecan Pond, but we couldn’t even find the pond. (The center confessed that the trail guide needs to be updated.) Gail was able to take some nice flower and butterfly pictures with her new camera, which she is still learning how to use.

The Ellis Bay walking path needed some trail clearing

The Two Pecan Pond walking path was not even paved. Unfortunately, Gail was wearing open-toed sandals.

Gail got this terrific photo of a Monarch butterfly on a thistle

Russell got photos of a raptor and a dragonfly

As a distant relative of Lincoln, Gail was excited to get a Lincoln-related souvenir in Alton. We went to the Visitor Center and Shop, and were surprised that they had nothing related to Lincoln. Gail was finally able to find a small pin with a silhouette of Lincoln on it.

Gail, excited to be in the “Land of Lincoln”

Our entire afternoon was taken up by a premium (paid) excursion, “In Lincoln’s Footsteps.” We have been wary about taking bus tours, but Gail felt that some of the Lincoln-related sites in Alton were too far to get to by foot or bicycle.

The tour ended up being a combination of fun and frustration. The bus was boarded several times by local actors, who told historical stories in character and costume. But at many of the stops, we were not allowed to get off of the bus. (Russell ended up running around town after the tour to get some photos.)

A statue marks the site where Lincoln and Douglas held their seventh debate

Gail with the actors who played Robert and Mary Lincoln

The excursion ended with two stops unrelated to Lincoln, where we were able to get off the bus. The first was the life-sized statue of Robert Pershing Wadlow. At 8 feet 11.1 inches, Wadlow still holds the record as the tallest person in recorded history. Sadly, he died in 1940 at the young age of 22.

Wadlow’s statue is life-sized, so you can see how you “measure up.”
Wadlow wore a 37AA-sized shoe.

Our final excursion stop was the site of the Piasa Bird, a large image painted on the side of a cliff. This image is mentioned in explorers’ writings as early as 1673, and it is based on an old Native American legend of a bird that supposedly devoured men. The image is literally on the side of the road near a gravel pit, and we weren’t sure what the appeal was.

Today was also a transition day. For the 100 passengers who boarded a week ago in Memphis, today was their port of departure. 100 new passengers have come aboard to take their place. And for those of us who’ve been here since New Orleans, we are beginning the final week of our cruise.

While we cruisers were having fun, the American Queen crew was busy restocking the steamboat


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