The Illinois River was and is a main artery of the transportation system of the central Illinois River valley. Most people arrived in boats, and used a large variety of boats for commerce, trade, and even for housing. A large system of waterway transport was developed.
However, it was discovered by early settlers that road and rail transport would become vital to their survival and continued growth. As St. Louis and Chicago became great hubs of commerce, people on the river wanted to be a part of the traffic and trade between them.
The river area became the focus of early railroad building, and through their own efforts, local citizens funded the early plank roads. Artifacts, survey reports, and photographs document the development of water, rail, and road transport.