Located on the North banks of the Illinois River, Buffalo Rock State Park combines rustic prairie hiking with some of the best cliffside views in LaSalle County. Throughout this park’s storied past, it has been the home of an Indiginous American tribe, used as a camp for a religious sect, and even a tuberculosis sanatorium during the 1910’s. These days, it’s a hidden gem state park that brings together the disparate worlds of fine art and conservation.
The State Park is located approximately 3 miles west of Ottawa, Illinois, and has long been a favorite picnic area, as well as an ideal terrain for the beginner hikers.
Buffalo Rock features two trails that offer wildly different park experiences: The River Bluff Trail snakes you along the Illinois River (featuring plenty of great bird watching opportunities), while the Woodland Trail gives you an up-close look at trees,
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wildlife, and the “Effigy Tumuli’’ mounds (made by visionary “earthworks’’ artist Michael Heizer) that resemble five enormous animals, a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and water strider. These earthworks, which can really only be seen from aerial photography today, were inspired by Indiginious American burial grounds, several of which can be found in the Illinois River region.
From two riverfront observation decks, you’ll be treated to a unique southward facing view of the Illinois River, providing a beautiful vista you can’t see at any of the other parks in the region.
Buffalo Rock is also home to three live American Bison. This trio can be seen in their grazing pen, located near the Western parking lot.
An early (8 a.m.) arrival rewards guests with an opportunity to see the Buffalo get fed and, occasionally, morning fog on the Illinois River.