Approximately 160 mi/257 km west of Chicago, the banks of the Mississippi River separate two Illinois towns, Rock Island and Moline, and two Iowa towns, Davenport and Bettendorf, collectively known as the Quad Cities. Originally settled by Native Americans, the Quad Cities' history and economy are closely linked to the Mississippi River.
Native Americans worked the area's rich soil for 12,000 years, but in the early 1800s they were forced off their land by the U.S. government. Seizing the opportunity to control the Mississippi, the U.S. military built an island fort in the Mississippi and during the Civil War floated supplies downriver to troops. Industry came to the Quad Cities when John Deere moved to Moline to harness the river's waterpower and expand his plow-making business. Also, riverboat gambling returned to the Mississippi River and with it, millions of dollars.
Plan to spend part of your visit aboard a riverboat. Jumer's Casino is actually four boats permanently moored at Rock Island: two for gambling, one for dining and one for administrative offices. For a nongambling boat trip, try Moline's 850-passenger Celebration Belle, which offers lunch, dinner, dancing and daylong cruises. Or hop on the Channel Cat, a water taxi operated by the local mass-transit system from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
There's plenty to do on land, too. The John Deere legacy is seen throughout Moline, which is the world headquarters of this global business. Two Victorian mansions built for the Deere family dominate the historic district; open for tours each summer, the gardens can be viewed throughout the year. The John Deere Pavilion near the river allows visitors to climb aboard the massive farm equipment built by John Deere, and the nearby John Deere Collectors Center showcases historic models. Of course, John Deere memorabilia is sold at the John Deere Store.
In Rock Island, the John Hauberg Indian Museum at Black Hawk State Historic Site houses a collection of Native American artifacts from the Black Hawk era and exhibits depicting Indian life. U.S. military history is on display at the Rock Island Arsenal, where the Army has manufactured combat equipment since the 1880s. For security reasons, some of the Arsenal is off-limits to civilians. Areas open to the public include a military-history museum and two military cemeteries with 2,000 graves of Confederate soldiers held prisoner during the Civil War. Open daily except Monday. Closed on major and military holidays.
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