8700 W. Chestnut Rd.
Galena Illinois 61036United States
Midwest Living Recommends
This is a do-not-miss experience for anyone who wants to appreciate the scenic beauty of the Galena area beyond the downtown shopping district.
This may be one of the best-kept secrets in Galena -- and Chestnut Mountain certainly doesn't make it easy -- but you will not regret seeking out this river cruise. Pontoon boats put you so close the Mississippi River that you can just about dip your hand into the water and well-versed tour guides will tell you things that you'll find yourself later repeating to family and friends. The boat is covered, open-air and small, holding just 49 people, but it's also nicely intimate. The driver-guide steers from near the front and during the course of the 90-minute cruise talks about the history of the river (including how to read navigational signs and how man-made islands came to exist) and points out beaver dams, eagles' nests, turkey vultures and snapping turtles. You also get an excellent view of the tree-covered bluffs, which are particularly impressive during the fall, and the Chestnut Mountain ski runs and chair lifts (with the lodge barely visible). It's impossible not to look at all of this and wonder about the Native Americans who once called the area home and what must have crossed the minds of the European explorers upon seeing it for the first time. Tickets run from $25 for adults to $15 to $20 for children, depending on age, and can be purchased online or at the reception desk at Chestnut Mountain Resort. The price includes the cost of a chair lift ride to the bottom of the hill but don't be afraid to ask driving directions if you prefer.