Native American DragonThe story of the Piasa comes to us from the 17th century when cave paintings were discovered by explorers. These paintings (since destroyed) are believed by some to relate to the native Illinis story of the Piasa.
The Piasa was native to Illinois and like the Illinis themselves lived alongside the Mississippi river. Piasa was a winged dragon with a scaly reptilian body. According to some stories the Piasa was able to breathe fire. Various acccounts put it at everything from nine to twenty feet long.
The Illinis and the Piasa lived together in peace. However one day another tribe invaded. Although the Illinis managed to fight off the invaders, the fight left many bodies scattered around.
The Piasa had previously only eaten the meat of animals, however he couldn't resist tasting one of the human corpses. He enjoyed the taste and from that day on began to catch and eat the Illinis people. The Piasa was dubbed "the bird that eats men".
To rid themselves of the Piasa the Illinis set a trap. One of their number lay on the ground whilst the rest hid themselves. When the greedy dragon flew down, the Illinis warriors stepped out of hiding and fired poisoned arrows at the Piasa. At such close range they were able to avoid its protective scales and lodge their arrows in the unprotected areas around its face and under its wings.
In 1924 Herbert Forcade painted a picture of the Piasa on the bluffs at Alton, Illinois. This painting was destroyed in the 1960s to allow for road building. A replacement was created by the American Legends Society. This was completed in 1998 and is situated just to the North of Alton.