In the Summer of 1673 the Marquette-Jolliet expedition, traveling down the Mississippi, beheld a large petroglyph on the bluffs overlooking the river near the site of present day Alton, Illinois. The local residents attributed several interesting legends to the giant bird-beast. Later observers saw two or more of the paintings on the bluff.
By 1838 the native American locals, having obtained firearms, adopted the custom of shooting at the terrible beasts. The gunfire, and local quarrying, had destroyed the glyphs by the time of the Civil War.
In the 1920's, the city of Alton decided to restore the painting, as a local symbol. Herbert D. Forcade did the work, with the help of his brother Orland G. Forcade. The small painting above was made by H.D. Forcade, and then placed under a grid to be replicated on the bluffs in large scale.
The restored painting lasted until 1950 when the bluffs were cut back to widen the McAdams highway along the river. Later reproductions of the Piasa bird did not fare as well.