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  1. Illinois DNR
  2. Parks
  3. Activities

Starved Rock Activities

Visitor Center
The visitor center offers displays and exhibits explaining the park’s cultural and natural history. A weekly schedule of activities is posted. Hours are 9 am - 4 pm daily (Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). Schools and other organized groups may arrange reservations for programs by contacting the center at 815-667-4906 or writing to the Natural Resource Coordinator, Starved Rock State Park, PO Box 509, Utica, IL 61373.

Please visit the Interpretive page under Starved Rock State Park to view the Junior Ranger Program offered to children 5-18 years old, Scout Badge in a Backpack program offered to Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes, as well as Cub Scout Wolves, Bears, and Webelos, and the custom Starved Rock Scout Program.

Group Permits

Groups of 25 or more must complete a Group Permit to be submitted for approval at least two weeks prior to the date of the group's visit.  Please download and print the following Group Permit and submit to DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov.  Please note groups may not reserve any portion of the park, trails, shelters, or picnic areas.  Thank you, enjoy your visit!

 Group Permit

Activity Permits

Groups or individuals who want to conduct a special activity on DNR managed site(s) must complete an activity permit along with liability insurance or liability waivers to be submitted to the site for approval at least 21 days prior to the date of the activity.  This permit is approved by the site as well as the IDNR headquarters in Springfield.  This is not a permit for the selling of items or for any activity covered by other Department permits.  Please read through the following permit carefully to ensure you have completed it in full before submitting to DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov. Please note activities cannot block any trails, shelters, or spaces to the public and must follow park rules and regulations (cannot go off trail, wade or swim in waterfalls, or climb rocks and canyon walls).

Activity Permit

Lodging
Situated on a high bluff just southwest of the rock itself is the stone and log lodge built in part by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The lodge has been refurbished, but still reflects the peaceful atmosphere of yesteryear. A new hotel wing has been added and features a registration lobby, an indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, saunas and an outdoor sunning patio.
The lodge offers 72 luxury hotel rooms and 22 comfortable cabin rooms. The Great Room is centered around a massive stone fireplace.
The restaurant is open seven days a week and offers many house specialties. It can accommodate up to 250 people for banquets. The lodge’s conference area can accommodate up to 200 with four smaller meeting rooms also available.
For lodge reservations, call 1-800-868-ROCK (7625) or 815-667-4211, or visit the lodge website .

Hiking

Free guided hikes are available every Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. from June 9th-November 17th, 2019.  Hikes will leave from the Visitor Center down by the main parking lot.  Interpreters will discuss the history, geology, flora, and fauna of the park while hiking to Starved Rock and French Canyon or Eagles Cliff Overlook, Lovers Leap Overlook, and Wildcat Canyon.

Exploring the majestic bluffs and canyons is the park’s primary attraction, and there are 13 miles of well-marked trails to help you enjoy them.

Dogs are allowed at the park as long as they are kept on a leash, their owners pick up after them and dispose of waste in trash cans, and provide them adequate water while on the trail (do not drink from waterfalls, creeks, or the river).

The trails are open all year, but hikers are urged to exercise extreme caution and to stay on official trails. To keep you oriented, trail maps are located at all trail access points, intersections and points of interest. There are colored posts along the trails, corresponding to colors on the maps, and letter symbols on the trail brochure to further assist you. Finally, yellow dots on posts indicate that you are moving away from the lodge or visitor center, and white dots mean you are returning.

Due to the park’s fragile ecosystem, camping is prohibited in unauthorized areas and all rock climbing, rappelling or scrambling off trails is prohibited. Biking is not allowed on the hiking trails. For your own safety, you must be off the trails by dark. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails.  In case of an accident or emergency, please CALL 911.

Visitors can help keep the trails beautiful by removing trash, remaining on trails and refraining from defacing canyon walls.

Visitors to Starved Rock State Park can now take a guided hike on the park’s most popular trails by using this new smartphone app. Download the Prairie State Hike App for just 99 cents.

 

** Please note that there are no washrooms or drinking water areas on the trails. **

Trail Suggestions

Fishing and Boating
Boats may be launched from the west end of the park. Also, paddlewheel boat rides are available.
Boats are not allowed within 600 feet of the dam, as strong currents and powerful undertows can be dangerous. Catfish, bullhead, white bass, sauger, walleye, carp and crappie may be caught in the Illinois River. Under no circumstances should you attempt to wade or swim in the river, canyons or from any park shoreline.

Kayaking

Click here for kayak rentals

Hunting
Check the IDNR website for Hunter Fact Sheets for hunting programs at Starved Rock, including deer, wild turkey, dove, waterfowl, squirrel and furbearer programs. For more information, please review the Hunter Fact Sheet.  Please call 1-815-667-4726 for hunting updates or trail closures during the hunting season. 
 
Winter Activities
Cross-country skiing can be enjoyed at nearby Matthiessen State Park. Cross-country ski rentals are available at Matthiessen Dells Area on weekends December through March. Ski rentals are available through a private concessionaire on weekends only.  Pleaes call the park office for more information on ski rental at 1-815-667-4726 for cross country ski updates-weather permitting. Snowmobiling is not allowed anywhere at Starved Rock, but is allowed at the I & M Canal one mile to the north in Utica. 

Eagle viewing is a popular winter activity enjoyed by many. The best areas to view  eagles are the top of Starved Rock, Eagles Cliff and Lover's Leap Overlooks,  and the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center.

Ice Climbing is allowed at the park.  Climbers must bring their own equipment and have experience ice climbing.  Ice climbers climb at their own risk.  It is up to the ice climbers to sign in at a self check in station located at the Park Maintenance building off the park road across from the Visitor Center. Sign in sheets as well as rules and regulations are usually posted by January 1st dependant on winter weather conditions. The DNR does not test the ice or post the suitability for climbing, it is up to the climbers themselves.  For safety reasons climbers must have a partner to climb-no one can climb alone.  Ice climbing is only allowed between 7 a.m. and dusk at the park, all climbers must be off of the trail before dark.  Due to on-going damage and creation of unauthorized trails, ice climbing will now be restricted to the following canyons/ice falls:  Wildcat, LaSalle, Tonty, and Ottawa Canyons.  Climbing outside of these designated areas could result in a fine.  The natural resources of the park canyons such as the fraglie sandstone must be protected.  Climbers cannot impact the sandstone with riggings, ice cleats, crampons, ice picks, rope, or other harmful climbing equipment.  All equipment must touch the ice/ice falls only. No other type of rock climbing or scaling the rock walls or formations is allowed at either Starved Rock or Matthiessen State Parks.  Climbing season is now closed for the year as of March 14th, 2019. 

Picnicking
Developed picnic areas are available to the day visitor, with tables, drinking water and restroom facilities. Eight shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Alcohol is prohibited January 1 through May 31 in the picnic area. Alcohol is always prohibited on the trails.

Camping
Starved Rock's campground has 129 Class-A Premium campsites.   All sites are available for reservation. Reservations are made on-line at reserveamerica.com Reservations for regular campsites and youth group sites require a $5.00 non-refundable reservation fee and payment of the full camping and utility fees at the time the reservation is made.  Please contact the Visitor Center at 1-815-667-4906 to make Youth Group Reservations.  The camping fee for a regular campsite is $25.00 per night unless it is a holiday at which time the campsite fee is $35.00. Alcohol is ALWAYS prohibited in the campground. There is a camp store in the campground that operates seasonally (Usually May 1-Oct. 31) that sells firewood, ice, soda and other camping supplies. Any firewood purchased in LaSalle County cannot leave the county due to the spread of the Gypsy Moth.  During firearm deer seasons, the campground will be closed. The campground gates are opened from 8:30 am until 10:00 pm.

History
This area has been home to humans from as early as 8000 B.C. Hopewellian, Woodland and Mississippian Native American cultures thrived here. The most recent and probably the most numerous group of Native Americans to live here was the Illinois, from the 1500s to the 1700s. Approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Kaskaskias, a subtribe of the Illinois, had a village extending along the bank of the Illinois River across from the current park.
In 1673, French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette passed through here on their way up the Illinois from the Mississippi. Known as “Pere,” the French word for “Father,” Marquette returned two years later to found the Mission of the Immaculate Conception-Illinois’ first Christian mission-at the Kaskaskia Indian village.
When the French claimed the region (and, indeed, the entire Mississippi Valley), they built Fort St. Louis atop Starved Rock in the winter of 1682-83 because of its commanding strategic position above the last rapids on the Illinois River. Pressured from small war parties of Iroquois in the French and Indian wars, the French abandoned the fort by the early 1700s and retreated to what is now Peoria, where they established Fort Pimitoui. Fort St. Louis became a haven for traders and trappers, but by 1720 all remains of the fort had disappeared.
Starved Rock State Park derives its name from a Native American legend of injustice and retribution. In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe upriver from here, was slain by a Peoria brave (sub tribe of the Illinois) while attending a tribal council in southern Illinois. According to the legend, during one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge his killing, a band of Illinois, under attack by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte. The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless Illinois died of starvation- giving rise to the name “Starved Rock.”
The Illinois State Parks Commission was initially headquartered in Starved Rock State Park after the park was purchased in 1911.

History Brochures:  Civilian Conservation Corps, Starved Rock Legend, and Fort Saint Louis.

CCC.pdfCCC.pdf

Legend.pdfLegend.pdf

Fort Saint Louis brochure.pdfFort Saint Louis brochure.pdf

 

2019 Special Events at Starved Rock State Park
(Phone 815-667-4726 for details or view the schedule under the Events tab)

 All programs are FREE and located at the Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center just off the main park road by the main parking lot and Illinois River.

March  

Maple Tapping at the Rock
Sunday, March 10th at 1:30 –2:30 p.m.
Discover Maple Syrups beginnings from Native American and Pioneer use to present day.  We will end the program with identifying a maple tree and tapping it for maple sap!
By Park Interpreter Lisa Sons
 
The History of Starved Rock 1673-1911
Sunday, March 17th at 1:30 –2:30 p.m.
Learn about our fabulous Native American, French and British colonial, and American history when Park Historian Mark Walczynski presents a program based on his new book, “The History of Starved Rock 1673-1911.” The program is a must see for history buffs, educators, and others.
By Starved Rock Foundation’s Park Historian Mark Walczynski
 
The Illinois Indians:  History and Culture in Illinois.
Sunday, March 24th at 1:30 –2:30 p.m.
A number of states are named after Native American Tribes, and one of them is the state of Illinois.  Journey through the early history of the Illinois Indians with Dr. Dan Hechenberger in this fascinating program.                                     
By Dr. Dan Hechenberger
 

April   

Living with Wildlife:  A Balance Helping Nature
Sunday, April 14th at 1:30 –2:30 p.m.
Have you ever wondered what to do with a baby animal, or an injured or orphaned animal?  Join Nancy Johnson, of the 2nd Hand Ranch and Rescue from Princeton, Illinois as she talks about her life as a wildlife rescuer and helps us understand how to live with wildlife on and off of the trail.
By Nancy Johnson, Second Hand Ranch
 
Ecology of Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers
Saturday, April 27th at 1:30 –2:30 p.m.
The onset of spring brings beautiful wildflowers to the woodlands of Illinois, and Starved Rock State Park is home to a rich variety of common and rare spring ephemeral wildflowers.  These plants deploy an amazing array of strategies to deal with the challenges of living on the forest floor.  This talk will cure your winter blues by discussing the myriad of adaptations by these interesting plants.
By Botanist and SIU Instructor Chris Benda the Illinois Botanizer
 
Live Birds of Prey Shows with Rich Escutia May-October:    Located just outside the Eagles Roost Cabin behind the State Park Visitor Center.  
May 11, 12, 18, and 19th from 1-3 p.m.
June 1,2, 15, and 16th from 1-3 p.m.
July 6, 7, 20, and 21st from 1-3 p.m.
August 10, 11, 24, and 25th  from 1-3 p.m.
September 7, 8, 21, and 22nd from 1-3 p.m.
October 5, 6, 19, and 20th from 1-3 p.m.
 

May 

Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage
Saturday, May 4th, and Sunday, May 5th  Hikes leave the Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., both days.  Hike to choose from:  Starved Rock and French Canyon (3/4 mile), Eagle Cliff and Lovers Leap Overlooks (1.4 miles roundtrip), and Wildcat Canyon with overlooks (2 miles roundtrip).
Spring is such a beautiful time of year at the Rock!  Waterfalls, mossy canyons, crisp and clean air on the overlooks, and spring wildflowers everywhere you see.  Join experienced naturalists both park staff and volunteers for a one of kind trail experience to find spring ephemerals (wildflowers) and learn about their natural history. 
By Park Staff and Starved Rock Foundation Volunteers
 
Amazing Animals of Illinois
Sunday, May 19th at 1:30 –2:30 p.m.
Fur, feathers, scales, and tails with the animals from Wildlife Prairie Park.  Dive into the world of wild animals found in Illinois as Wildlife Prairie Park introduces the mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians.  LIVE ANIMALS
By Wildlife Prairie Park
 

June                                                                                                                                                                                                      

National Trails Day Celebration
Saturday, June 1st, Hikes leave the Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.  To Starved Rock and French Canyon (3/4 mile roundtrip)
Sadie the Starved Rock Eagle and her friend Smokey the Bear will be on hand at the Starved Rock Visitor Center for meet and greets while celebrating National Trails Day.  Enjoy a guided hike with the park’s interpreter while learning all about our fabulous trails at the park that lead you through our 18 canyons and 7 overlooks. 
By Park Staff and Starved Rock Foundation Volunteers
 
Summer Solstice Sunrise Trek at Matthiessen Dells Area
PRE-REGISTRATION ONLY Email DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov by June 14th by June 14th
Friday, June 21st at 6:30-8 a.m.
Park trails and parking lots don’t open until 6:30 a.m. unless you are hiking with the park interpreter to enjoy a peaceful summer solstice morning before the crowds set in for waterfall viewing and trail trekking.  Meet at the Matthiessen Dells Area Fort next to the main parking lot.
By Park Interpreter Lisa Sons
  
September
 
Monarch Mania Program
Sunday, September 8th at 1:30 p.m.
Every fall thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate south to Central Mexico!  Come out and learn all about these fascinating creatures and get the chance to see the process of tagging and releasing Monarchs for research.
By Doug Taron of the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network and Illinois Nature Museum in Chicago
 

October 

Fall Colors Weekend

Saturday, October 19th and Sunday, October 20th, Hikes leave the Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., both days.  Hike to choose from:  Starved Rock and French Canyon (3/4 mile), Eagle Cliff and Lovers Leap Overlooks (1.4 miles roundtrip), and Wildcat Canyon with overlooks (2 miles roundtrip).

Bursts of orange, yellow, rust, purple, and red will surround the Rock in autumn.  Why not join a hike through the park to enjoy the fall colors through the experience and knowledge of a naturalist!  Discover why leaves change their colors and more!  Beautiful opportunity for photos, views from the overlooks, and the crisp fall air.  
By Park Staff & Starved Rock Volunteers
 
Incredible Bats and More!
Saturday, October 26th, 1-2 p.m.
Bats eat bugs, they don’t eat people, bats eat bugs, they don’t play in your hair……  Bats are our friends whether they eat insects or fruit.  Find out just how important bats are to our Planet.  Visit with some live and very friendly Egyptian Fruit Bats as well their non-stinky friend the skunk and friendly tarantula.    By Sharon and Dan Peterson of Incredible Bats
 
 Halloween Tales and Stories
Saturday, October 26th at 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Halloween tales and stories from Central Illinois finest storyteller Bill Myers.  Great program for all ages!
By Storyteller Bill Myers
Haunted Trails and Tales - Ghosts of Starved Rock’s Past 
PRE-REGISTRATION ONLY-Email DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov by October 19th
Saturday, October 26th.  Hikes leave at 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:15 p.m., and 6:30 p.m., from the Visitor Center to Starved Rock (1/3 mile roundtrip).  Haunted hikes will be 1 hour in length. Starved Rock is rich in history from French Explorers who came across the Illinois Indians at the Rock to the infamous Starved Rock Murders in 1960 at St. Louis Canyon.  Experience the trail through living interpretation as the “ghosts of Starved Rock’spast” guide you to the Rock along a luminary lit trail.  Tales will be told…...what will you believe, see, or hear in the dark, dark,woods?!
By Park Staff and Starved Rock Foundation Volunteers
  

November

SOAR with Live Birds of Prey!
Sunday, November 10th at 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Saving Our American Raptors also known as SOAR will lead a presentation with live birds of prey including owls, hawks, falcons, and an eagle.  Discover the natural habitats, behavior, and adaptations of these fascinating animals.
By Saving Our American Raptors
 
Full Moon Night Hike
Friday, November 15th at 5:30 –7 p.m.
PRE-REGISTRATION ONLY Email DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov by November 8th
The trails at Starved Rock close at dark daily, unless you are attending a guided hike such as this one with the Park Interpreter!  Enjoy the 1.5 mile trail to Lovers Leap and Eagle Cliff Overlooks along the boardwalk under the glow of the full moon.
By Park Interpreters
 

December    

Winter Solstice Sunrise Hike

Saturday, December 21st at 7 –8:30 a.m.
PRE-REGISTRATION ONLY Email DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov by December 14th
Park trails and parking lots don’t open until 6:30 a.m. unless you are hiking with the park interpreter on the winter solstice.  Meet at the parking lots to Kaskaskia and Ottawa Canyons along Route 71. Nothing compares to the solitude of a winter hike at dawn.
By Park Interpreter Lisa Sons
 
Starved Rock Photography Show
Photography show for adults 18 years an older that are not professionals in their field (earn more than 25% of their annual income from photography). 
Criteria:  Black and white or color photography of birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, landscape, and water as it applies to nature showcased in the state of Illinois at nature preserves, state parks, city parks, and county parks.  No manmade structures, vehicles, or people allowed. Size of 8 x 10—11 x 14 on mat board with hanging mechanism (no frames or prints outside of these dimensions please). 
Please visit the Starved Rock Foundation website at www.starvedrockfoundation.org for further information about the photo contest including  the entry registration form.   Entry forms must be submitted to DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov no later than November 24th, 2019.  All entries must be brought to the park no later than 3 p.m. on December 1st.  Entries will be open to the public for viewing December 3rd-16th.  Ribbons will be awarded December 8th.  People Choice Award (judged by the public) and the Starved Rock Award (judged by the Sandwich and Princeton Photography Clubs).


Programs with an * are sponsored by the Starved Rock Foundation.  www.starvedrockfoundation.org or on facebook at StarvedRock 

Surrounding Area
To find local attractions and restaurants, please visit www.enjoylasallecounty.com

Directions
I-39 southbound: South to I-80 east (exit #59). Go 2 miles to exit #81 (Rt. 178, Utica). Go south (right) 3 miles on Rt. 178 and follow the signs into the Park.
I-39 northbound: North to Exit #48 (Tonica exit). Go east (right) for approximately 5 miles to the T-intersection, which is Rt. 178. Go north (left) for approximately 5 miles and follow the signs into the Park.
I-80 Eastbound and Westbound: Get off at exit #81 (Rt.178, Utica). Go south 3 miles on Rt. 178 and follow the signs into the Park.
From the Chicago area: Take I-294 or I-355 south to I-55. Take I-55 south to I-80. Go west on I-80, 45 miles to Exit #81 (Rt. 178, Utica). Go south (left) 3 miles on Rt. 178 and follow the signs into the Park.
While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.​​