December 13, 2015

Starved Rock State Park (Nov. 2015)


Starved Rock


Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
Southwest of Chicago; Near Utica, IL (LaSalle County)
42.426496, -87.804924

November 25, 2015
Wednesday - appx 40 degrees, cloudy

Link to photo album: https://flic.kr/s/aHskr81qWR

With all of the REI #optoutside hype in the four weeks preceding Thanksgiving, we wanted to figure out some escapes during our time on the family farm. We had 6 days scheduled in LaSalle County out of Chicago and a car. Some hikes needed to be done.


Starved Rock was the natural choice for outdoors activity. It had previously snowed the Saturday before, hitting the local farms with a significant amount of powder. We had packed quite a few layers in case of freezing temperatures, so we were ready to check out the trails, despite any residual snow.

Starved Rock

Our first stop was the lodge. We immediately regretted eating lunch in town before we arrived, as the lodge has a full restaurant and would have been a fun dining experience. The lodge crowns the rock opposite of Starved Rock itself, separated by Fox Canyon and another larger valley in which the visitor center rests at the base.

Cabins at starved rock

Our second stop was the visitor center, which is open throughout the year. They have a variety of maps and information on the park, as well as a small museum area with dioramas describing the area's history. Looks like Starved Rock was used as a military installation before the state purchased it in the early 20th century.

Visitor center

Diorama of "battle of starved rock"

As we hit the trails, we quickly saw that the snow had mostly cleared, save for the paths made of wood. The paths that go straight up the rocks are made of wood, creating a set of stairs to scale the canyons. A light sheet of snow covered some of the logs and other features littering the forest bed.

Dry creek

Wooden path

Snowy logs

Our first stop on the trail was French Canyon. Over the centuries, a small creek cut its way into the sedimentary rock. Some beautiful layers are exposed on both sides, allowing ferns and icicles to grow down the side.

Snowy trail and rock faces

French Canyon

Rock cliffs at French Canyon

Icicles and ferns on the sedimentary faces

Along the small creek, snow-capped logs littered the forest bed.

As the climb up to Starved Rock itself was too iced over, from the previous weekend's snow, we walked the other direction. Heading back to the main trail from French Canyon, we started our climb up the hill opposite of Starved Rock. Some wooden paths help travelers up the hill. However, the paths were covered in a sheet of packed and semi-melted snow, which had formed into ice before our visit. We traveled at a quarter pace as we had to navigate the ice sheets without falling on our butts. Luckily, the railings were next to us for support (we didn't bring ice poles). I am not quite sure if the wooden paths actually worsened the trek up the hill or not, but they are there so it is what we had.

River Trail

River Trail

The first vista up the hill to the east of Starved Rock proper is right before Lover's Leap. You can grab some nice photos of the rock faces from this viewpoint.

Starved Rock

Eastern White Pine are scattered around at the top of this hill. The smell of evergreen surrounded us at the vista, which was a refreshing change from the city.

White pine

Lover's Leap provides wonderful views of Starved Rock, the Illinois River, and some of the canyons. Eagle Cliff Outlook is further down the trail, which gives a look of the eastern side of Starved Rock's miles of trails. Bald eagles nest here during the winter.

Eagle Cliff Overlook

Starved Rock and Illinois River

Illinois River

The light snow made the park worth visiting in the winter months, although visitors should take care on the steep trails when there is ice.

For those in Chicago, this park should be an annual trip. It's just a couple of hours southwest of Chicago. It's great for a weekend escape, as there are cabins and rooms at the lodge, or you could go camping. If anything, go to walk among the pine and lose yourself studying the rock faces in the canyons.


Points of Interest

  • Lodge, with a restaurant, rooms, a gift shop, and a grand hall. Open to visitors. There is also a bar on the back side of the lodge.
  • Starved Rock
  • Multiple canyons throughout the trail system
    • We visited Fox Canyon and French Canyon
    • Others canyons include: 
      • St. Louis Canyon, Kickapoo Canyon, Sac Canyon, and Aurora Canyon on the west side of Starved Rock
      • Wildcat Canyon, Basswood Canyon, Lonetree Canyon, Tonty Canyon, LaSalle Canyon, Owl Canyon, Hidden Canyon, Hennepin Canyon, Ottawa Canyon, Kaskaskia Canyon, and Illinois Canyon on the east side of Starved Rock
  • Lover's Leap and Eagle's Cliff viewpoints, overlooking the river and Starved Rock
  • The River Trail (appx. 12 miles)
  • The Illinois River
  • Campground on the southern part of the park across Route 71
  • Visitor center at the base of the rocks in the northwest part of the park. 

Resources


Flickr Album (link >>)

Hover over or tap the photo below to get controls for the slideshow
Starved Rock State Park, IL (Nov. 2015)

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