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The 12,000-square foot National Great Rivers Museum is located on the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam #26. Adjacent to the regional bike trails and situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, this museum is dedicated to telling the story of the people, nature, and wildlife that have shaped our river throughout history. The museum is packed with 20 highly interactive and computer animated exhibits that illustrate the impact of the Mississippi River on our people and our region.

Public Lock Tours

  • Daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. (tours begin promptly)
  • Free
  • 45 minutes to one hour in length
  • Requires ½ mile walk and heights of approximately 80 feet.
  • Public tours limited to 25 participants

Group Tours

  • Groups of 10 or more need to call the Alton Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-258-6645 to arrange their visit.
  • Group tours available daily 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2 p.m.
  • Allow at least 1 1/2 hours to visit both the museum and locks and dam.
  • School/children groups require at least one adult chaperone per 10 students.
  • Student activity sheets are available to assist in the museum experience



History of the Museum
Constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers as a component of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, the museum structure was completed in 1998 at a price of $6 million. The completed museum features an exhibit gallery that is approximately 7,000 square feet, a multi-purpose classroom with Distance Learning capabilities, a theater with seating for 100, with state-of-the-art audio-visual components, and a gift shop.


Exhibits and Displays
Throughout history, people have relied on the Mississippi River. It has played an important role historically, culturally and ecologically for both nature and humans. The journey down the Mississippi River begins with exhibit space dedicated to establishing the importance of the river, as well as telling the story of the forces that change the river’s course over time. See how ongoing cycling forces shape life on the river at interactive computer displays, discover the habitats along the river, find out more about the ancient beginning of the river as told by the majestic bluffs, and experience where the great rivers meet.


Our River
Visitors begin their journey down the Mississippi River with an introductory exhibit establishing the importance of the Mississippi River.  Throughout history, people have valued and relied upon the Mississippi River.  Within this exhibit space, visitors can explore additional displays that capture the life and natural forces of the river. 

  • The Bluffs:  Towering above the Mississippi River, the majestic limestone bluffs support many life forms that enrich the river today and continue to tell the unique story of the river’s ancient beginnings.
  • The Confluence:  We’re at a powerful and exciting place right now on the Mississippi River.  It is here that the great rivers meet.  Discover the points where the Mississippi converges with the Missouri River and Illinois River.



Locks and Dam System
The Melvin Price Locks and Dam is considered by many to be a national marvel of engineering right here on the Mississippi River.  While examining the history and development of the locks and dam system, visitors can explore a number of displays showing how the locks and dam are used along the river.

  • A Stairway for Boats:  The lock and dam system is like a stairway for boats, making it possible for large boats to travel the Upper Mississippi River.  Visitors can try for themselves to move the water in the locks in order to balance the water levels.
  • Life Size Barge: River navigation is important to the U.S. economy, and we need large barges to move our goods, such as corn, soybeans and coal.  When stepping under the frame of a barge, visitors can experience how vast a barge is in size, as well as how cargo is stored inside.  
  • Steer the Barge: Navigating the Mississippi, with all its natural and engineered challenges, takes a lot of skill and experience – and it can be really fun!  Kids of all ages can take a stab at pushing a barge through the locks and dam with a simulator.


People and the River
People do not always realize how much the water and the environment play an integral role in their daily lives.  The following exhibits allow visitors to take a closer look at their home environments and how they can take care of preserving the river environment.

  • How much water do you use?: Whether we’re taking a bath or grabbing a drink of water, it is important to be aware of our personal water consumption. This interactive display allows visitors to fill the tank with the water they consume each day, and then they can learn ways to use their water resources more wisely.
  • Working with the River:  Lots of people care about the Mississippi and do all sorts of work in several agencies to take care of the river environment.  This exhibit pays tribute to all those who help maintain the Mississippi River.