Great River Road

The Legend of the Piasa

In 1673 French Explorer Jacques Marquette reported that he and fellow French explorer Louis Jolliet discovered a painting of what was probably two “Water Monsters” on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near present day Alton, Illinois. By 1700 those pictographic creatures were no longer visible. In 1836 the novelist John Russell described an image cut into the bluff of a legendary dragon-like creature with wings (See photo below). According to Russell the creature was called a “Piasa, the bird that devours men.” That version of the pictograph as well as myths about the Piasa have become prominent in local folklore.

The Piasa

The Piasa

Here’s a panoramic view of the Illinois River taken from a scenic overlook above Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton, Illinois.