If you travel north of Alton on the Great River Road, you might notice a strange painting gracing one of the bluffs. It’s the Piasa Bird, and according to legend, it used to fly over the Mississippi River and terrorize the locals, long before Marquette and Joliet made their journey to the area in 1673 (by the way, the two explorers were startled to see one of the ancient paintings of the terrifying creature on the bluffs!).
Pronounced “pie-a-saw,” this fearsome creature is depicted as having two white, deer-like horns, red eyes, and a snarling, bearded face. With a body the size and shape of a horse, the Piasa’s long, white fangs protruded from its lower jaw, and its huge wings delivered so much force when it flew that trees would bend. Its stubby legs possessed dagger-like talons, and its long, devilish tail wound around its scaly body three times.