Moraine Hills State Park

If you are traveling to the state of Illinois, you should consider Moraine Hills State Park as one of your itineraries. This suburban state park offers a wide range of outdoor recreational activities like hiking, bird watching and biking as well as refreshing, natural scenery perfect for breaking away from the busy city life.

Location and Park Features

Moraine Hills State Park is a 2,200-acre park located in River Road, McHenry County, Illinois. Moraine Hills was named after moraine, a geological formation that results from the buildup of boulders, rocks and glacier deposits. The melting of glacial ice caused the formation of kames which compose all the ridges and hills found in the park.

Moraine Hills State Park has a 48-acre lake called Lake Defiance. Lake Defiance was formed when a massive block of ice broke from a glacier and subsequently melted. The lake is among the state’s few glacial lakes and has retained its almost-natural condition throughout the years.

Pike Marsh is in the southeast portion of the park. Visitors will find a variety of rare greenery in the 115 acres of Pike Marsh. The marshland is composed of Kalm’s lobelia, hoary willows, and Ohio goldenrods. Apart from the bulrushes and cattails that grow within the marshland, Pike Marsh is also home to a vast colony of pitcher plants, one of the largest in the whole state.

Another natural feature that can be found in the park is the Leatherleaf Bog, a 120-acre span of kettle-moraine landscape. A kettle or depression is formed when an individual glacial block melts. Leatherleaf Bog is made up of leatherleaf and sphagnum moss. Marsh marigolds, ferns, willows and St. John’s wort also thrive in the area.

Historical Facts

Some relics have been discovered within the park vicinity suggesting human habitation dating to almost 1,000 years after the retreat of Wisconsin’s glacier. Seasonal habitation dating back to almost 4000 BC has also been indicated. Native American tribes like Sauk, Fox, and Potawatomi were known to have inhabited or traveled through the area. During white settlement, both Sauk and Fox were able to declare possession of the said land area.
The first known settler of the park was Horace Long. He inhabited the southeast area of the park and remains of the cabin foundation can still be distinguished near the main road of the park.

Park Development

The first McHenry dam was constructed in 1907 and; consequently, the people received the completed facilities as donation. The State of Illinois was able to acquire 15 acres of land intended for McHenry Dam State Park. In 1971 further acquisition of Lake Defiance took place and by 1975, construction of the different infrastructures in the park was undertaken. Finally, in October 1976, Moraine Hills State Park opened to the public.

What to Do In the Park

Campers, families, wildlife enthusiasts, and vacationers will enjoy the natural scenery and the wide area of activities that the park has to offer.


Moraine Hills provides adequate facilities to help ensure a safe and convenient park experience. Tables are set up and available for use in both covered and open areas. Each picnic location has drinking water, toilets and sufficient parking.

Wildlife and Bird watching

Moraine Hills is home to diverse wildlife such as coyote, red fox, eastern cottontail, opossum, mink and raccoons. Over 100 bird species including the green herons, mallards, wood ducks, teal and many others can also be found in the park.

Fishing and boating

Lake Defiance and Fox River offer boat rentals to guests. Fishing is also allowed in Lake Defiance and Red Fox with the exception of prohibited areas such as the bank area. Physically challenged visitors can access Fox River through a fishing pier in the McHenry Dam.

Contact Information

For more information about Moraine Hills State Park, reservations and park rules, call 815-385-1624 or send an email to