8763 E. Canyon Rd., Apple River, Illinois
The cool, clear waters of Apple River flow through the center of this lovely park, gently but steadily cutting through masses of limestone, dolomite, and shale as they have done for thousands of years. In the canyon, vertical cliffs now rise 150 feet above the small stream. Flowering plants, shrubs, and some 14 different kinds of ferns grow in the crevices of the rock face, transforming it into a hanging garden.
For nature lovers and amateur geologists the 297-acre park has special interest. It is in a small region that was untouched by glaciation, and it apparently served as a refuge for many plants that did not survive the glacial period in most parts of Illinois. As a result, several exquisite relict plants are found here, including the bird’s-eye primrose, the flower-of-an-hour, and the jeweled shooting star.
In more recent times the region was prized for its deposits of lead. Native Americans dug it out for exchange with French traders 300 years ago, and in the 19th century, settlers established profitable mines here.
Five hiking trails wind among the wooded hills, providing an opportunity to enjoy lush vegetation; a chance to amble alongside streams and springs; and possibilities to spot deer, small mammals, hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and the occasional bald eagle.
Wildflowers splash the park roadsides from spring into fall. The river is stocked with rainbow trout in early April.
Open year-round except Christmas.