IL-178, Utica, Illinois
According to a legend from the 1760s, the Illiniwek Native Americans, one of whom had murdered the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, sought safety from the avenging Ottawas atop a high sandstone butte. Surrounded by their opponents, they eventually starved to death.
The appeal of this 2,630-acre park, which stretches along the southern edge of the Illinois River, is primarily in the 18 canyons cut in the sandstone bluffs by feeder streams and in the enormous variety of plant life found here, all of which can be enjoyed from the 13 miles of well-marked hiking trails.
The Interior Canyon trails penetrate the cool, damp canyon recesses, with their rugged rock formations, impressive waterfalls, and a lush growth of ferns, mosses, and delicate flowering plants. The Bluff Trail takes you along the many slopes where oaks and sugar maples shade witch hazel, wild hydrangeas, and trilliums, and the bluff tops are crowned by oaks, cedars, white pines, and shrubs preferring a drier soil.
Along the River Trail one walks beneath a light canopy of cottonwoods and black willows and enters the forested floodplain, where the deeper soil nurtures hickories and bur oaks, blueberries, jack-in-the-pulpits, and many other nut-, fruit-, and flower- bearing plants. The River Trail also leads to Starved Rock.
Fishermen may be lured to the park’s streams by white bass, bullheads, channel catfish, and walleye. Playgrounds, picnic sites, and campgrounds further the wide appeal. Cross-country skiing is also popular in winter.
Did you know?
Starved Rock State Park is famous for its rock formations, such as St. Peter’s sandstone, formed 425 million years ago under an inland sea.