An Illinois River Road Motorcycle Tour

Motorcycle ride in forest road during evening time

Are you searching for a scenic route to traverse on your motorcycle this year? Then look no further than the Illinois River Road Scenic Byway. President Teddy Roosevelt once considered this byway the “world’s most beautiful drive” for a good reason. It’s filled with gorgeous natural attractions and quaint small-town life, making for an enjoyable, fun-filled motorcycle ride. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about taking an Illinois River Road motorcycle tour. 

Illinois River Road Scenic Byway

The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway follows 291 miles of roadway along the Illinois River. The byway begins in Ottawa and ends in Havana, showcasing Illinois’ most beautiful natural attractions and several quaint Americana-esque cities along the way. 

This byway makes for the perfect weekend motorcycle trip. You can either complete it as a one-way trip, driving along the Illinois River and then branching off once you reach the end of the route, or turn it into a loop around the river. State Route 29 travels along the river on the west side, while Route 71 and Route 26 pass by on the east side. 

When you begin the scenic byway in Ottawa, we recommend stopping at the following cities and attractions:


Ottawa, IL, is a historic town located where the Illinois River and Fox River converge. Ottawa is steeped in history, as it was the site of the first debate between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858. The city was also a significant stop on the Underground Railroad.

We recommend spending a few hours in Ottawa before departing on your Illinois River Road motorcycle tour. You can take in the beauty of nature by visiting Buffalo Rock State Park or Washington Square Park. Alternatively, you can learn more about the city’s history at the Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage. 

Starved Rock State Park

Once you set out on the River Road, you’ll soon come to Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby. This wilderness area is located right along the Illinois River and features steep canyons, wooded trails, and gushing waterfalls. You can stop for a picnic lunch at the state park or stretch your legs by walking one of the scenic hiking trails. 


Your next stop along the River Road will be LaSalle, a quaint Illinois town just 12 square miles in area. Named after French explorer Robert De LaSalle, this city is home to the Illinois and Michigan Canal and features a rich history. 

You can visit the LaSalle County Historical Museum to learn more about the city’s past, stop for a wine tasting at August Hill Winery, or see the canal up close at the I&M Canal National Heritage Area. 


Soon, you’ll come to Peoria, one of Illinois’ most popular metropolitan areas. Peoria maintains a contemporary atmosphere through its planetarium, sculpture garden, and fine art exhibits. It’s also home to the Peoria Riverfront Museum, a science, art, and history museum located directly on the Illinois River. 

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Finally, you’ll enter Havana, home of the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge provides sanctuary to fish, birds, and other wildlife. It includes over 4,000 acres, making it an excellent stop to bask in the fresh air and enjoy some time off your bike before continuing the rest of your journey. 

Havana is also home to a few other natural attractions, such as the Rockwell Mount Historic Site and Havana Riverfront Park. From this city, you can head back the way you came or cross the river to travel up the eastern edge back to Ottawa. 

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