Illinois River Road Report: Princeton and Hennepin

By WEEK Producer

June 3, 2014 Updated Jun 4, 2014 at 6:14 PM CDT

There are gems hidden all along the Illinois River and we have a special break-down of the hot-spots you can’t miss this summer.

News 25's Beau Ebenezer makes his first stop this week in our new "Illinois River Road" Report.

We continue tonight to make our way to the hottest tourist spots this summer in our "Illinois River Road Special Report".

Strap your seat belts on because this week we're getting a taste of art and history, North on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway.

Princeton is famous for the largest summer theater event in the state, Festival 56.

Dozens of professional actors come from across the country to perform different plays.

Meanwhile, the Princeton community houses them during their stay.

City officials say they're proud to have a "small town, big drama".

"They are so pleasantly surprised with the quality of actors and the performance,” said Joni Hunt, Princeton Director of Economic Development. “It is something where once they see it, they want to come back again and again."

Princeton is also home to slavery abolitionist leader, Owen Lovejoy.

His house is part of the Underground Railroad and a National Historic Landmark.

Hundreds of travelers make it a destination on their trip every year.

But what's a stop in Princeton without going for a "joy ride" on their scenic routes?

"Travelers come from all over the state just to ride over this red covered bridge. It was built in 1863 and runs over the big bureau creek, one of the largest creeks in the state."

The city also has a new covered bridge named "Captain Swift".

It was built just eight years ago, and it's the longest timber covered bridge in the state.

You're now just a 15-minute drive from a sanctuary for thousands of birds.

The Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes is right off of Route 26 in Hennepin.

The lakes were drained several years ago to make way for farm crops, but in 2001, the Wetland Initiatives brought the lakes back to life.

Now, more than 250 bird species are at the Refuge.

"This is a great spot for those looking to get close to nature, go for a hike, and especially birders,” said Anaise Berry, Executive Director Of Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. “There's a fabulous observation tower at Hennepin and Hopper that affords a great opportunity to see the waterfowl."

So this summer, if your looking for a place to go, just take a ride with us on the Illinois River Road.