Weekend Backpacker: Chicago
Magnificent waterfalls, bluffs, and canyons are the draw at Starved Rock State Park. Located midway between the cities of LaSalle-Peru and Ottawa, the park was named after a band of Illiniwek Indians, who, according to legend, starved atop a 125-foot sandstone bluff in 1760 as they hid from attacking Ottawa Potawatomis.
This park offers both long and short hiking trails totaling about 15 miles through thick forest. Biking is not allowed on most trails, which are sometimes located along towering bluffs and rocky canyons. (These make for an occasionally precarious hike, as well.)
Sparkling waterfalls are located at the heads of each of the park's 18 canyons, where walls of moss-covered stone provide a cool retreat in summer. Some of the waterfalls dry to a trickle inlate summer; longer-lasting waterfalls are found in the French, LaSalle, and Ottawa canyons.
Over 200 species of birds have been observed in the area and a checklist is available atthe visitor center. A wildflower list helps hikers identify and track some of the 175 different species in the park. Rock climbing and rappelling is not permitted in the park.
The best way to see the park is to camp at the campground and hike the many short trails to the canyons. Don't miss the St. Louis Canyon (1.5 miles from the visitor's center), a 60-foot waterfall that freezes in winter. The trails that wander along the La Salle and Tonti canyons exhibit the same flora and fauna the settlers saw.
Warning: The Illinois, Sac, and Kaskaskia are multilevel canyons where the trail is often slippery.
Camping: The campground is south of the main park off of Route 71 and consists of two main loops and a youth camping area in lightly wooded terrain. This is a busy campground75 sites are available by reservation (mail only). There are 132 sites altogether; the nightly fee is about $11 per site.
Getting there: From I-80 take Route 178 south to the park entrance. The park is about six miles east of LaSalle, Matthiessen, and Buffalo Rock state parks.
Permits: Available at the park or camp office.
Maps: Available at the park office and the visitor center.
PO Box 509
Utica, IL 61373
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication