When the Mississippi River changed its course some 20,000 years ago, it
left in its wake a broad swath through what would become central
Illinois. For nearly one million years, the ancient river had slowly
carved a broad valley — until ice dams forced it to flow into its
present channel, nearly 100 miles to the west.
Today, the pastoral valley where the mighty Mississippi
once flowed can be viewed from the third-floor observation deck at the
Dickson Mounds Museum near Lewistown. A number of civilizations have
inhabited the area for 12,000 years, and the museum is rich in
artifacts, murals, photographs and hands-on exhibits that trace the
human history of the Illinois River Valley.
To fully enjoy the museum, start your tour by viewing the
audiovisual display on the third floor. Then stroll through the lifelike
vignettes and a multimedia show that explores the world of
Mississippian farmers and explains the culture of the people who once
occupied the area. These exhibits provide a vivid picture of what life
was like for the early inhabitants of the valley.
One of the newer discoveries on display in the museum is a
canoe that emerged on the bank of the LaMoine River following a flood in
1994. Historians have determined that the canoe, made from a black
walnut log, was made by non-Indians sometime between 1700 and 1850.
For more information, contact the museum by calling (309) 547-3721 or go to museum.state.il.us/ismsites/dickson. The museum is handicap-accessible, and there is ample parking for large rigs.Â