Imagine if you will a riverfront packed with manufacturing companies, mills, quarries, loading docks and riverboat traffic. In the early 1800s, James Mason purchased the land that is now Grafton, with a vision for riverfront development and trade at a key location between Chicago and St. Louis. Officially founded in 1836, Grafton's prime location on the river necessitated a boat construction industry. Resting under the Mississippi River bluffs, quarrying was also a lucrative industry. Tons of magnesian limestone was found here, making the quarries one of the richest and most extensive of the town's resources. Grafton stone was used locally to construct buildings and homes, and it was also transported to St. Louis for use in structures, such as the Old Cathedral and the Eads Bridge.
Along with the rise and fall of industry in Grafton, came the rise and fall of the rivers. Floods have always been a part of the rhythm of life in Grafton, with the community's first encounter with the rising waters occurring in 1844. The Flood of 1993 proved to be the most devastating in the town's history, reaching a record 38.2 feet. The community pulled together, fought the swelling waters of the river, dried itself off and rebuilt the city around them to become the bustling tourist town they are today. The lighthouse found on the riverfront today stands a symbol of resilience and determination of this historic river town.
You can learn more about the history of Grafton by following the Historic Grafton Walking Tour. Click here to download the free guide.
The Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway bends and curves with river, winding its way to the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in Grafton, Illinois. Experience the hometown flavor and down-to-earth qualities of this real river town as you meander along the Main Street browsing the shops for unique gifts and antiques. Pull up a seat on the decks or patios at one of the many restaurants to indulge in the local flavors. Or, spend the afternoon with a glass of wine in hand at one of the many local wineries offering a relaxing river view. Bed & breakfast inns and guest houses scattered throughout the town offer views of the river and a home away from home. With barges just a stone's throw away on the Mississippi River, you are guaranteed to gain a new perspective of what living on the river really means.
The options are endless for your next Grafton getaway. Water recreation abounds from racing down the waterslides at Raging Rivers Waterpark to paddling your way down the Illinois River in a canoe. First class boating facilities can be found at the Grafton Harbor, a full service marina offering both transient slips for short stays and long-term docking. The new zipline is calling those looking for a thrill, or enjoy a soft adventure with biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding at more at Illinois' largest state park – Pere Marquette State Park.
Grafton offers visitor delights during every season of the year. Unique festivals add to the flair of this river town. The fall season calls travelers to enjoy the burst of colors along the byway and take part in the annual Grafton Art Fair and the Grafton Rendezvous. And, as many towns begin to hibernate for the winter, Grafton comes alive with eagle watchers eager to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of American Bald Eagles.
GRAFTON CITY COUNCIL
Grafton is served by a mayor and six council members. For more information, go to Grafton Board of Alderman.
For more information on Grafton and surrounding communities, please contact the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-258-6645.