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Spirit of Illinois

It might be called the Prairie State, but Illinois offers an enticing array of boating destinations and activities.

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Quad Cities waterfront with boats

QUAD CITIES
Consisting of Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, the Quad Cities lie at the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi rivers. Together, they make up the largest metropolitan area between St. Paul and St. Louis, meaning there are activities and attractions galore — resorts, restaurants, golf courses, shopping, spas, theaters and more — but with all the hospitality of a small Midwest town. Want to impress your boating friends? Wow them with your knowledge that the Quad Cities is the only bend where the Mississippi flows east to west instead of north to south.

You can’t miss the historic experiences offered here. So, after you cash in at one of the three area casinos — The Isle, Jumer’s or Rhythm City — stop by the Mississippi River Visitor Center on Rock Island Arsenal. Its new floor map shows all the waters and lands of the local Mississippi corridor, highlights recreation areas and locks and dams, and teaches about the relationships between the river and surrounding communities.

The Family Museum in Bettendorf has a similar attraction designed for younger guests: The new Lil’ Ssippi River Valley play area includes a 28-foot water table that resembles an actual stretch of the Mississippi and allows kids to add obstacles and raise or lower water levels as they watch their boats make the journey downriver.

In Davenport, the River Music Experience gives Quad City residents and visitors the chance to experience the aural history of the Mississippi. There are concerts and performances year round, and exhibits include a space dedicated to local icons such as Bix Beiderbecke, Francis Clay and Pat Patrick, and a scale model of the Streckfus Steam Line’s flagship excursion boat, which played a major role in the movement of music along the river.

You can cruise the mighty waterway yourself on the Celebration Belle paddlewheel boat out of Moline, or hop aboard the Channel Cat Water Taxi to get between various landings in the upper-pool of the Mississippi.

Tie up at Sunset Marina in Rock Island, which offers dockage for 473 boats from 16 to 60 feet in length. Owned and operated by the Rock Island Public Works Department, the marina has a fuel dock with gas and diesel, free pump out, restroom and showers, public launch ramp and a 35-ton Travelift should you need maintenance or repairs.

Mark your calendar for one or more of the many riverfront festivals that take place around the Quad Cities, including the Red, White & Boom Fireworks and Mississippi Valley Blues Festival (around the July 4th holiday), Great River Tug Fest (the first or second weekend in August), Floatzilla (mid-August) and East West Riverfest (two weeks in September).

More on these events can be found on our website at www.heartlandboating.com/May-2013/Summer-Fest-For-Alls/, www.heartlandboating.com/April-2013/Paddle-On/ and www.heartlandboating.com/August-2013/Fall-Fests/.

Visit nearby LeClaire, Iowa, and embark on a two-day cruise to Dubuque, Iowa, aboard the Twilight riverboat. The all-inclusive trip includes admission to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium and shuttle service to Port of Dubuque attractions. There may be no better way to experience the river life than aboard what’s been described as a “floating palace.”

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