Three Rivers Project

Since its launch in 2000, the Three Rivers Project aims to preserve the integrity of the rivers, wetlands, forests, and floodplains in the Piasa Palisades region. To accomplish this goal, Three Rivers Project staff, volunteers, and community partners focus on citizen science education, community participation, conservation activities and clean energy solutions, and advocacy efforts in the Piasa Palisades region.

Critical Work at the Confluence of our Great Rivers

The Piasa Palisades region is a unique ecosystem that contains the confluence of three great rivers: the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois. The region’s ecosystem also includes oak-hickory forests, the historic Great River Road Scenic Byway, rich floodplains, wintering bald eagles, and endangered nesting yellow-crowned night herons. This region is situated on the edge of St. Louis, putting critical wetland and floodplain habitat at risk from urban sprawl. Subdivisions, warehouses, and shopping centers outnumber contiguous forests, industrial farming poses a growing threat to water quality and natural resources, and polluting industries harm air quality.

Illinois has already lost more than 90 percent of its wetland acreage to development and agriculture. Of the remaining natural floodplains, more than 50 percent is locked behind levees, hindering the eco-region’s ability to absorb rainwater, filter pollutants, and provide critical habitat for endangered species. Worse yet, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates that more than a third of Illinois’ remaining wetlands are in imminent danger of being developed. 

Without strong public demand for the protection of this area’s remaining natural resources, the Piasa Palisades region will face intensified air and water pollution, increased flooding, and the loss of its remarkable biodiversity. 

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

To preserve the integrity of the rivers, wetlands, forests, and floodplains in the Piasa Palisades region, the Three Rivers Project pursues the following objectives:

  • Educate the public about the threats facing this region; 

  • Involve local residents in actions needed to protect valuable natural resources; 

  • Collaborate with environmental and educational groups in the area; 

  • Work with local decision-makers to protect and restore the Piasa Palisades region and to promote clean energy alternatives 

Two young children and a Sierra Club staff member explore a Monarch butterfly garden.Over the past two+ decades, Three Rivers Project staff and volunteers have made significant strides to accomplish the Three Rivers Project’s mission through educational events, advocacy, and activism. Since 2006, Three Rivers Project has partnered with Alton Main Street to host the Mississippi Earthtones Festival, an annual celebration of the Mississippi River through art, music, and conservation. This event, which is attended by thousands of community members annually, amplifies small businesses, educates the public on conservation efforts in the area, and creates space for the local community to come together in celebration of protecting area watersheds. In addition to the festival, event organizers host an annual river clean-up. As of 2021, the river clean-up has netted over 36 tons of trash and has recycled 8 tons of recyclable materials. The Three Rivers Project also hosts the Pere Marquette Preservation Project twice a year at the Pere Marquette Park. The project, which launched in 2012, has been restoring historically significant cabins in the Park’s Upper group camps and restoring hilltop prairies with the help of AmeriCorp YouthBuild, SIUE Wildlife and Biology Club, Eagle Scouts, and local volunteers to keep the space open to the public. 

In addition to running these major annual events and other educational programs throughout the year, Three Rivers Project staff advocate for clean energy policy that will benefit the Piasa Palisades region. For example, Three Rivers Project staff advocated for the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act with the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, and the bill successfully passed in September of 2021. This legislation marks one of the nation’s most groundbreaking advancements in climate justice and workforce transition, and the Three Rivers Project will work to ensure the policies are implemented accordingly.

Activists hold a sign that reads, "Hold Ameren Accountable."

Our Partners 

Protecting the area’s big rivers is paramount to our work, and would not be possible without the support of volunteers and collaboration with partners. We partner with organizations such as American Rivers, Nicollet Island Coalition, Mississippi River Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, United Congregations of Metro East, and Prairie Rivers Network to advocate and educate on issues impacting the entire Mississippi River Watershed. 

Sierra Club staff members smile in a selfie.

                                  Three Rivers Project co-coordinators Christine Favilla & Virginia Woulfe-Beile.