A proud centerpiece of the Quad Cities community (a block of five cities between Illinois and Iowa) is the U.S. Army Rock Island Arsenal (RIA), located on the Mississippi River between the towns of Davenport, IA and Rock Island, IL. The 946-acre arsenal is located in Illinois and is situated less than a mile from the Iowa state line via Arsenal Bridge.
RIA is also accessible through the 24th Street Bridge to the west and Rodman Ave Bridge on the east. The arsenal supports military operations and helps prevent flooding as it provides dam regulation for the Mississippi River. RIA's combination of rich history and modern manufacturing has attracted military personnel and civilians to the area.
Rock Island was first established as a federal military reservation by an 1816 Congressional act which secured the area for government use. The base was originally named Fort Armstrong and saw a lot of action during the Black Hawk War of 1832. However, Armstrong's prominence in conflict dwindled after the Black Hawk War ended. The base was renamed Rock Island Arsenal in 1862.
Following the war, RIA became an ordnance depot due to its strategic location along the Mississippi River. The base eventually became accessible by train in 1856 with the completion of Davenport Bridge, the first railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi River.
Following a steamboat crash that destroyed the bridge just months after its completion, the bridge company sued the steam engine company and won—largely thanks to a lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln. Construction of the new bridge took both steam engine and wagon travel into account. The bridge was rebuilt with a 360-degree rotation to allow boats to pass and a lower level for pedestrians and buggies. Rail access helped grow the military base by allowing more supplies and individuals to reach RIA.
The Department of the Army used the island base as a prison camp for incarcerated Confederate soldiers during the Civil War; the prison was shut down just three years later. It held over 12,000 Confederate POWs and is the final resting place for nearly 2,000 soldiers with another 125 Union soldiers at their distinguished Rock Island National Cemetery.
Rock Island's full potential would not be recognized for another eighteen years when it began manufacturing weapons and supplies for the United States Army. One notable weapon produced by the arsenal was the Springfield Model 1903 rifle, which was crucial in defeating Germany during World War I.
The Rock Island Arsenal Museum was opened in 1905 and is the second oldest U.S. Army museum right after West Point in New York. The museum has been open for over a century, despite facing permanent closure after temporary shutdowns in order to create space for more weapon production during both World War I and II. Rock Island Arsenal was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Rock Island continues to provide supplies to soldiers worldwide. Department of Defense (DoD) medium-range paper--used for target practice by our nation's armed forces--are a unique product offered only by RIA.
The Arsenal stands as the United States’ largest federally-owned military manufacturing mill, also holding the country’s only active Army foundry. RIA is responsible for the production of various military equipment including aircraft, vehicles, guns and artillery pieces. This post is home to about 250 military personnel and 6,000 civilians.
Units Stationed at Rock Island Arsenal
- Army Sustainment Command
- Defense Acquisition University
- Joint Munitions Command
- Navy Operations Support Center Rock Island
- U.S. Army Civilian Human Resources Agency, North Central Region
- U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center Rock Island
- U.S. Army Garrison - Rock Island Arsenal
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Rock Island Arsenal
- U.S. Army Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center
- U.S. Marine Corps Reserve/ 4th Maintenance Logistics group
There are several hotels in the area including the Holiday Inn Rock Island (309-794-1212) and the Radisson Quad City Plaza Hotel (563-322-2200), both of which are within a mile of the Arsenal.
Plan on an extended stay? If so, there are a couple of housing choices available, both on and off post. Contact Rock Island Housing Authority at (309) 788-0825 for more information.
Depending on where you live, you'll be assigned to one of four school districts nearby:
Illinois Rock Island School District (309) 793-5900 Rock Island/Milan School District (309) 793-5915
Iowa Davenport Community School District (563)-336-5000 Bettendorf Community School District (563)-359-3681
Buses will bring students to and from the base to their respectful schools. Please contact the appropriate school district or school liaison office directly at (309) 732-2677.
Mississippi River Visitor Center: 328 Rodman Ave Rock Island, IL 61201 (309) 794-5338
Rock Island Arsenal Visitor Control Center: 23 Prospect Dr Moline, IL 61265 (309) 782-0485
To access Rock Island Arsenal, visitors must pass through one of three gates:
Davenport Bridge (IA) – open Mon-Fri 5:30am-8:15am, 2pm-5:30pm
*If you wish to visit outside of these hours, you must cross Government Bridge
Moline Gate (IL) – open 24/7
Rock Island Gate (IL) – open 24/7
Visitors must obtain a pass to enter if they do not carry a DoD identification card. You can get a pass at either the Visitor Control Center (309-782-0485) or any of the gates listed above.
Morale, Welfare & Recreation (MWR)
MWR at Rock Island caters to a variety of interests. Services offered include sports/fitness/outdoor recreation, restaurants/catering, community support and more.