Do not let the name fool; Starved Rock State Park is one of Illinois’s greatest attractions. The 2,600 acre park located in La Salle County, Illinois has a rich history beginning with early Native American settlers 10,000 years ago all the way to today. Along with consistent rain, this lush state park has wintry temperatures as low as twelve degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, but pleasant weather in the summer reaching as high as eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit.
One aspect of Starved Rock State Park is the gorgeous scenery. In eight of the state park’s canyons, Aurora Canyon, Illinois Canyon, Kaskaskia Canyon, and LaSalle Canyon, Ottawa Canyon and St. Louis Canyon, Tonty Canyon, and Wildcat Canyon there are active waterfalls, some available during heavy rains while others are available year round. St. Louis and Wildcat are also noted for ice falls. Two other scenic attractions are Lover’s Leap Overlook and Starved Rock. Lover’s Leap Overlook, named for a legend of two star-crossed lovers, and it often used for bird watching by visitors. Starved rock is a titular sandstone butte that makes is easier to see the surrounding park, particularly the Illinois River and Lover’s Leap Overlook.
The greatest way to see all of this magnificent scenery is through hiking. For information on hiking, many visitors are first directed to the Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center for maps and information on the park’s 18 canyons and 13 miles of hiking trails. Most of these hiking trails coincide with canyons, and if anyone has forgotten a hiking item or food, items can be bought at the visitor center.
The notable hikes to take all depend on the seasons. In the spring and summer seasons, hikes highlight the lush environment including over 200 flowers and a variety of ferns. The fall time is picturesque, consisting of plentiful waterfalls and autumn coloring. In spite of colder temperatures, winter hiking is available. Ice falls are available for viewing this time of the year as well as ice climbing.
Activities in Starved Rock State Park consist of camping, hiking, boating, canoeing and fishing as well as activities based on seasonal climate such as horseback riding and equestrian camping, and picnicking. The location of the campgrounds are south of Route 71 and has many amenities for the modern camper. Of 133 Class “A” Premium campsites 100 can be reserved; seven are accessible for the disabled and there is even a campground store that sells camping supplies. These campsites include electricity, showers, flush toilets and a children’s playground. Picnicking is also available for the day visitor and areas for picnicking include tables, drinking water, and restroom facilities.
Boating is a popular activity, especially with the Illinois River being so close. A tournament is held annually for the biggest catch in fishing for fish including sauger, walleye, carp, crappie, white bass, bull head and catfish. Although there is no wading or swimming allowed, paddlewheel boat rides are available. Other activities include horseback riding/ equestrian camping and winter sports. There are equestrian trails and campgrounds as well as horse rentals available.
One unique thing about Starved Rock State Park is its Trolley tours and “Entertainment at the Rock.” From March to December, trolley tours are held twice daily for a small fee. Along with a short video of the area, visitors stop at two visitor centers the village of Utica and hear the local history and legends. For my information on tickets or specialized Trolley Tours, the number is 815-220-7386. The Entertainment at the Rock is different depending on the time of year. From “Tribute to the Stars” to the “Colgate Country Showdown,” there is always something going on at the state park. The Colgate Country Showdown is usually Tuesday nights from June 22 to August 3rd. plus, there are Veranda Parties Friday nights and Saturday nights that take place from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information, visit the state park’s website at: http://www.starvedrockstatepark.org/index.cfm?pageID=383.