Prairie du Rocher, along with the neighboring Fort de Chartres, was perhaps the earliest French center in Illinois. It is still known for keeping the French custom of la Guignonee (ghee-OH-nay), a New Year’s Eve wassailing tradition where costumed groups (including some college professors), go door to door singing for drinks. “We would start at the priest’s house”, said one long-time participant, “so he wouldn’t see how drunk we were after visiting the other houses.” A public celebration, with costumed dancers and fiddlers, is held at the nearby fort.
You can cross over to “Rocher” on the Ste. Genevieve ferry, or go the long way around and cross the Mississippi at the bridge at Chester.
The town boasts a church, a bar, an American Legion Hall, and the Creole House, with the long porch and post-in-ground French architecture typical of the era.
The town and nearby fort are protected from seasonal flooding by levies with gates that can be closed.
Bluffs line the sides of the Mississippi.
A short drive along the bluff road leads to the historic home of Pierre Menard, a wealthy French Canadian fur trader and the first Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. The earthworks marking the site of Fort Kaskaskia are above the house, and can be reached by a wooden stairway.
“Rocher” is also famous for its annual summer “rendezvous” historical reenactment at nearby Fort de Chartres. The bicentennial was perhaps the largest; here is a newspaper with a photo of the 1976 crowd on Rocher’s main street.