Hiking, Trails, & Waterfalls

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Q: Are the waterfalls running?

A: Waterfalls are seasonal and produced by heavy rainfall or snowmelt. The best time to visit a waterfall is in the spring from March through May.

Q: Where can I find the waterfalls?

A: Waterfalls are produced in our canyons when rain flows along the land to the Illinois River. You can view the waterfalls in the canyons along the Green Interior Canyon Trails leading to the following canyons: French, Wildcat, LaSalle, Ottawa, Kaskaskia, Aurora and St. Louis.

Q: Can you swim in the park or in the waterfalls?

A: No. Swimming and wading is strictly prohibited in the park due to the nature of the water which is farm runoff and the current Illinois River by the Lock & Dam.

Q: Is rock climbing allowed in the park?

A: No. All canyons and overlooks are composed of St. Peter’s Sandstone which is a very fine grade of sandstone that crumbles and erodes easily. Rock climbing, carving into the stone, and scaling the rocks is illegal in the park and extremely unsafe.

Q: How many miles of hiking trails are in the park and what are the lengths of the trails?

A: We have 13 miles of hiking trails in the park. Each map at the park as well as hand-held maps list one way mileage from the Visitor Center to each location in the trail system.

Q: What trail is the most scenic?

A: That is subjective and hard to answer because every site at the park is beautiful in its own way. It all depends on how many miles you are willing to hike. All trails start from the Visitor Center or smaller sections from individual parking lots located off Routes 178 & 71. You can make a loop out of the Visitor Center to Wildcat Canyon area or hike a loop from the Visitor Center to Lone Tree Canyon but once you pass Lone Tree Canyon, it all turns into the same trail with side trails to various locations listed along the trail.

Q: When/where is the best time/place to see Eagles?

A: The best places to spot a bald eagle are from the top of Starved Rock, walking along the seawall and looking out toward the park’s islands, down by the boat ramps or from the Illinois Waterway Visitors Center.

“Typically morning is the best time to see them or late afternoon as they tend to feed more. If you get a really cold day, you’ll be able to stop by and see them throughout the day. For an up-close look, if the weather is especially cold and windy, the eagles tend to perch in trees below Starved Rock and Lovers’ Leap.

“The eagles tend to migrate to the area when temperatures dip below freezing. The birds fly up and down the river looking for food and the park’s proximity to the dam keeps the water turbulent, making for easier access.

Those looking to catch an eagle sighting may want to head to the park sooner rather than later as warmer temperatures may scatter the birds.

“If we get that cold weather for an extended period of time then large numbers will migrate down to our area. Frequent cold snaps and then warming up will not have that migration.

Q: What trail can you recommend for small children or the elderly?

A: The state does not rate or trails at the park nor mark them as easy, moderate and difficult. Our only recommendation regarding trails for children or the elderly are mileage /distance. There are major staircases throughout the park, but there are benches to rest at along the way.

Q: Are there any accessible trails in the park?

A: No. Unfortunately, due to the topography of the park, there are no handicapped/accessible trails to the canyons or waterfalls. The most accessible trail would be the sidewalk at the lodge where visitors can view the “Art in the Park” collection, see the cabins, woods and the shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. There’s a great view of Starved Rock from the Veranda. If you head to the east end of the Veranda and look down, you will see an arrow carved out of flagstone which points directly at Starved Rock. The view of the scenic Illinois River Valley from here is a perfect place to take photos.

Q: Are the trails dog-friendly?

A: Trails are open for dogs as long as they remain on a leash and are cleaned up after. It is up to your discretion whether your dog is able to walk along any given trail.

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