Nauvoo's first name was Quashquema, a Fox Indian word meaning "peaceful place." Nauvoo, a Hebrew word for "beautiful place" or "pleasant land", is a historic town and the backdrop for Nauvoo State Park. On the banks of the Mississippi River in western Illinois' Hancock County, the 148-acre park, on the south edge of Nauvoo along Illinois Route 96, includes a 13-acre lake with a mile-long shoreline. In addition to fishing, boating, camping and hiking, people return to these serene surroundings for the park's recreational features, its annual grape festival and to soak up the area's history.
A house built by Mormons in the 1840s, remodeled by Icarians, and later owned by the Rheinberger family serves as the Nauvoo State Park Museum. The restored home features a wine cellar and a press room, and is the only Nauvoo wine cellar open to the public. This also is the location of Nauvoo's first vineyard, which has been producing grapes since the mid-1800s. The museum itself exhibits artifacts from all periods of Nauvoo's history, from Native American occupation to the introduction of Nauvoo Blue Cheese in the 1930s. The museum is staffed by the Nauvoo Historical Society and is open 1-5 P.M. from May 1 through October 15.
Fishing and Boating
Lake Horton, a 13-acre manmade fishing lake, is stocked for anglers wanting to catch largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill. Although there are no boat docks or boat rentals, a primitive boat launch is available. Only electric trolling motors are allowed.
Nauvoo State Park offers 150 camping spaces, equally divided between Class A and Class B areas. A youth group area is centrally located in the park. Don't forget to ask for permission--all campers must obtain a permit for overnight camping from the park office, and groups of 25 or more must get advance permission before entering the park.
At 1.5 miles, the park's main trail, Locust Lane, shows off some of the park's best features. As the trail winds around the lake and through timbered areas, hikers can see and hear a variety of birds .Visitors also will enjoy the 3/8-mile accessible loop trail from the campground. A short trail connects the main picnic and playground area to the dam, and a short, one-way trail lead's hikers to Gilligan's Island on Lake Horton.
Picnic and Playground Areas
If picnicking is in your plans while visiting Nauvoo State Park, you're in luck. The park features two picnic and playground areas totaling 20 acres. In addition to playground equipment for kids, you'll find tables, stoves and two shelter houses, one equipped with modern toilet facilities. A ball diamond and two parking lots round out the list of amenities.
Sledding is permitted on the slopes adjacent to the dam of Lake Horton. Cross-country skiing is allowed along the trails when snow cover is adequate. Note that the modern restrooms are closed during winter months, as is the museum.
Grape Bowl, Sod Stage and South Areas
The Nauvoo Grape Festival, held annually over Labor Day weekend in the Grape Bowl and Sod Stage area directly west of Lake Horton, coincides with the ripening of the grapes. The festival includes an hour-long program depicting Nauvoo's history. A pageant, which for more than 50 years has paid tribute to two Nauvoo industries, observes an old French rite called "The Wedding of the Wine and Cheese." The festival's carnivals, entertainment tents, arts and crafts exhibits, flea markets, buckskinners and car shows are held at the South Area, just south of the ball diamond.