Follow the Mississippi River from St. Paul to New Orleans and you’ll find hundreds of intriguing towns dotting the landscape. But few have as rich a history as little (population 1,000) Nauvoo, Illinois.

My Labor Day weekend travels brought me to this little hamlet, located almost halfway between the Quad Cities and St. Louis. What makes Nauvoo famous? In a word – Mormons. From 1839 to 1846 this area was the center of the Mormon movement, where Joseph Smith built his following and where Brigham Young led these same followers west to the Great Salt Lake Valley after Smith was slain.

There’s a rich, well preserved history of the Mormon Church and way of life in Nauvoo including an entirely restored historical village with guides in period costume playing out the lives of frontier residents. The rebuilt temple is an impressive structure perched high above the town with commanding views of the Mississippi. To learn more about Nauvoo, check out my Twitter tour.

The imposing Mormon Temple dominates the landscape in Nauvoo.

Statue of Joseph Smith and his brother, as they road horseback from Nauvoo for the very last time. Smith was slain by an angry mob shortly after they left Nauvoo.

The Mississippi provides plenty of outdoor recreation, not just from the water, but the shore as well. Kids being kids, not a video game in site!

The well-preserved Mormon historical village has dozens of hands-on experiences and demonstrations. Here, a blacksmith talks with children about how they wrapped iron around the wheels of covered wagons, needed on the westward journey.

Kids enjoy history when they can participate in time-honored crafts. Here, one of our group members helps the craftsman make rope, with  take-home prize!

On a horse-drawn carriage ride, commentators portray life in Nauvoo in the mid 1800s. This statue here depicts Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, near the Trail of Hope.

One of the many homes and businesses you can tour in historical Nauvoo is the Browning House and Museum, home to the family who built the noted gun manufacturer. This was a big hit with the boys in our group!