Quad Cities Attractions

Everyone knows what the big US cities are all about. But the country’s mid-sized towns also offer possibilities for tourists and aren’t so overwhelming. And there’s parking. We recently visited the Quad Cities—Davenport and Bettendorf ,Iowa, and Rock Island and the Molines in northwest Illinois—population 468,000. Whoever thought of going there? My husband.

We stayed two nights at the restored Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport—a 1915 gem (lobby ceiling pictured), beautifully restored and now one of Marriott’s autograph collection hotels. The restaurants were fine, not fabulous, the martini bar was fun, and the guest rooms had many little touches to make a guest’s stay more enjoyable. They were the epitome of “it’s the little things that count.”

Because of the cities’ size, they’re easy to get around in, but you have to cross the Mississippi River to travel from one state to the other. We wanted to see the Rock Island Arsenal and associated attractions which are entered from the Illinois side (GPS saved us) via the Moline Gate, and you have to get a military ID card at the Visitors Control Center—they check your criminal record, BTW. I guess we were “OK.” It’s the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the country and a National Historic Landmark. Both a National Cemetery and Confederate cemetery are there.

We knew the Rock Island Arsenal had been a major manufacturer of US arms and armaments in both World Wars up until today, but we hadn’t realized it’s also the home base of the First Army, so lots of barracks and military housing, as well as beautiful old stone buildings.

A Mississippi River visitor center is on the island, and that was our first stop. It’s smallish, with enthusiastic staff. It’s also well positioned, overlooking two locks (Locks and Dam #15) that help boat traffic navigate the changing depths of the river. There are 29 lock and dam structures along the upper Mississippi that maintain a 9-foot navigation channel, allowing boats of all kinds to travel from St. Paul, Minn., to St. Louis, Mo.—around a 400-foot drop. Below St. Louis the incoming water from the Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, and Arkansas rivers widen and deepen the Mississippi, and the lock are no longer necessary.

Nearby is a still-used, historical railway swing bridge, one section of which can pivot out of the way to allow taller boat traffic to pass beneath. (If the accompanying animation will work, you’ll see the bridge in action, as well as Mississippi barge traffic entering and leaving the locks.) The locks and dam structures are the province of the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a headquarters building on Rock Island. The building has a clock tower, built in 1867, and the clock isn’t working. Hmmmm. They should fix that. And, of course, you’re thinking of the Rock Island Line and Johnny Cash. The Rock Island Railway was so famous in its day it was Jesse James’s choice for his first robbery.

The museum, with the history of armaments (focusing on their manufacture) was well done and impressively large. You may be glad to know that the military is up-to-date with 3D printing, and at Rock Island it’s tested for use in creating spare parts no longer available or quickly needed tools and parts in the field, as well as lighter-weight gear. In the military, 3D printing is termed “additive manufacturing.” The museum takes pains to acknowledge the contributions to its history from Black Americans, who guarded its camp for Confederate prisoners, and women, who took on the manufacturing jobs when the men went overseas.

A great way to spend half a day! We skipped the botanical gardens (rain) and went to the art museum instead.

3 thoughts on “Quad Cities Attractions

  1. Yeah, the Mighty Mississip is quite a river. Samuel Clemons studied to be a riverboat pilot and had to memorize all the ports and channels of the river before he could get his license. He purportedly passed the rigorous test, but them became a writer (using the depth measurement nomination, Mark Twain) and never did pilot any boats.

    • Served him well though in his writing. A good example of how, to an author,(almost) no experience is wasted!

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