Discover the natural wonders of Illinois
Illinois is home to magnificent state parks and three of them are in our very own backyard. With miles of trails, there is always an adventure waiting to happen. Explore Starved Rock’s seasonal waterfalls, take a hike at Matthiessen or say hi to Pebbles, Cocoa and Hope, the bison, that live at Buffalo Rock State Park. Visit the sunflower field at Matthiessen State Park in mid to late July. Fall colors are most vivid in mid-to-late October.
Starved Rock State Park is located along the banks of the Illinois River in La Salle County. The Visitor Center is open Sunday through Friday from 9am to 4pm and on Saturday from 11am to 4pm (December through March).
The park’s 18 canyons feature vertical walls of moss-covered stone formed by glacial meltwater that slice dramatically through tree-covered sandstone bluffs. More than 13 miles of trails allow access to waterfalls (fed by seasonal runoff) or natural springs, sandstone overhangs, and spectacular overlooks. Recreational opportunities abound, from hiking to camping to fishing, boating and hunting. Special events are scheduled throughout the year.
Photo by Jacki Musser
Canyons, streams, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, approximately 4 miles south of Utica and 3 miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology, botany and bird watching as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for an outing. Points of interest are Matthiessen Lake Falls, the fort and Cascade Falls (take the Dells entrance) and the sunflower field in bloom now through late July depending on weather (take the River entrance).
Photo by Kathy Casstevens
Buffalo Rock State Park is located on a bluff which once was an island in the Illinois River. Now standing majestically on the north bank, this promontory affords a magnificent, sweeping view of the Illinois River. Located approximately 3 miles west of Ottawa in LaSalle County, this 298-acre park has long been a favorite picnic area, as well as a nature lovers’ delight. The resident bison are named Pebbles and Cocoa. In the spring of 2020, baby Hope was born to Cocoa. The shelter in this park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s. There are flat hiking trails which overlook the scenic Illinois River Valley.