7 minute read

Starved Rock State Park


Starved Rock State Park is a world apart from anything else in Illinois. Since the late 1800’s visitors have been trekking to this beautiful, and unexpected, stretch of nature to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. More than a century later, and this still holds true. From the moment you first wind your car

Bald Eagles

through the towering trees at the edge of the park, you will feel as if you are a world away from the Illinois you know. At Starved Rock, more than 13 miles of trails wind along, and above, the Illinois River. While you explore these environs, you’ll find countless breathtaking views, places to fish, boat, and simply relax in nature’s splendor. From the towering sandstone canyons to amazing seasonal waterfalls, there’s an awe inspiring view around every corner. Whatever the season you choose to explore, a trip to Starved Rock will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.

Consistently voted the #1 Attraction in The State of Illinois, Starved Rock features 18 unique canyons, 14 of which

Starved Rock Lodge


STOP 1: The Starved Rock Visitors Center

The Starved Rock Visitor Center is the perfect place to start your produce stunning State Park adventure! Here, you’ll seasonal waterfalls” to find interactive educational “several of which produce displays, free videos on the stunning seasonal park’s history, hiking maps and waterfalls. Guests can a bookstore! While you’re there, explore a vast network be sure to check out Trailhead of more than 13 miles of Concessions and Gifts for a great trails, where they can soak selection of hiking provisions. in awe inspiring vistas and encounter remarkable plants and animals. The fun at Starved Rock doesn’t stop there, the STOP 2: Starved Rock From the Visitors Center, take a short 0.3-mile hike towards the park’s namesake, Starved Rock. park’s historic lodge and The summit is home to one of informative visitors center offer special programs like guided hikes, trolley tours, presentations from wildlife experts, live concerts, dining and much more! Tip

You can borrow binoculars, dog bowls, and dog leashes for FREE at the front desk of the Visitors Center.

Starved RockVisitor Center

St. Louis Canyon

the best views in the entire park, where you can marvel at the Illinois River, or watch birds plunge for fish near the base of the Illinois Waterway Lock and Dam.

STOP 3: St. Louis Canyon

Just a few minutes to the west of the Visitors Center, off IL-178, you’ll find the parking lot for St. Louis Canyon. At the end of this 0.4-mile hike you’ll be treated to a beautiful box canyon, complete with a tall waterfall and hidden alcove that runs behind it. Even when falls aren’t in season, the canyon’s towering walls of intricate sandstone make for quite the sight.

STOP 4: French Canyon

One of the easiest hikes in the parks, just so happens to lead to one of the most beautiful canyons! Located just 0.4-miles southeast of the Visitors Center, French Canyon offers a towering 45-foot tall waterfall during the rainy season, and beautifully eroded Saint Peters sandstone all year round. After a rainfall, admire the colorful streaks left on the canyon walls by the mineral-rich water.


Most of Starved Rock’s beautiful sandstone canyons produce waterfalls after periods of heavy rainfall, but St. Louis, LaSalle, French, Wildcat, Ottawa, and Kaskaskia Canyons are considered to be among the best. St. Louis Canyon boasts the only spring-fed waterfall in the park, resulting in much longer waterfalls, while LaSalle Canyon (despite being much shorter than the other waterfalls) is the only one in the park you can walk behind while the waterfall is in action! The French canyon waterfall is conveniently located just a short 0.4 mile hike from the Visitor Center, while Wildcat is hands down the largest in the park, a gargantuan waterfall exceeding 70 feet in height.



Every winter, a small stretch of the Illinois River, between Starved Rock State Park and the Illinois Waterways Visitors Center, becomes a temporary condominium for a convocation of eagles! These majestic creatures, with wingspans upward of eight feet in length, pay Starved Rock a visit every year when more northern state’s rivers and lakes begin to freeze.

The Illinois Audubon Society’s Plum Island Sanctuary, located at the base of the Starved Rock Lock, is commonly used by these eagles as a wintering site. The island’s seclusion, sturdy trees and proximity to a non-iced-over section of the river, makes Plum Island particularly desirable real estate for these feathered fliers. During their wintering season, which lasts anywhere between December and March, you’ll often spot these eagles circling above broken ice, trying to find their next meal, or roosting among the island’s tallest trees. To see these eagles for yourself, head to the Lover’s Leap Overlook, the peak of Starved Rock or the aptly named Eagle Cliff Overlook. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars or a camera with a large tele-photo lens. If you left your binoculars at home, don’t fret, Starved Rock Visitors Center also loans out complementary pairs at the front desk.

French Canyon

STOP 5: LaSalle Canyon

Located about a mile from the Parkman’s Plain parking lot, LaSalle Canyon boasts a wide picturesque canyon and jutting sandstone shelf, suspended 20 feet off the ground. Best of all, your hike to the canyon will wind you along the Illinois river, providing you with a great view of the river and a chance to see some rare birds and foliage.

STOP 6: Water Cruise or Trolley Tour

If you’re looking to get out of the canyons and take a break from hiking, or if you have a party member looking for a less active excursion, you can reserve a spot aboard Starved Rock’s Eagle One Water Cruise (running Jun. – Oct.) or take a Trolley Tour (running year-round). These narrated tours merge history and sightseeing for a truly one-of-kind view of Starved Rock.

STOP 7: Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center

After a full day of hiking and sightseeing, cap your trip off with a stay at the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center. This historic hotel nestled in nature, features a Cliffside panorama of the Illinois river, an indoor pool complex, on-site restaurants and a beautiful rustic lounge. You can choose from historic lodge accommodations, spacious hotel rooms or charming log cabins.

Water Cruise


Starved Rock’s Canyons and Overlooks provide wonderful views of towering sandstone cliffs, lush vegetation and the mighty Illinois River. Photo-worthy sites like Council Bluffs Overhang, a massive sandstone alcove once used by Indigenous tribes for ceremonies, and the titular Starved Rock, once home to the French explorer’s Fort Saint Louis des Illinois, now offer inspiring panoramic views of the river valley below.


There are more than a dozen waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park, many of which transform into beautiful, natural ice sculptures as winter tightens its grip on LaSalle County. According to the Starved Rock staff, some of the more notable (and stunning) ice waterfalls can be found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons.


Many blogs cite Starved Rock as one of the top destinations for hiking with your dog in the Midwest. The River Trail, that’s conveniently located off the recently restored Parkman’s Plain lot, is one of the more popular canine hikes. The dog-friendly outdoor Veranda at the Lodge even offers a special “doggy menu”. Dogs must be leashed inside the park.

Dog Friendly

Beer - Wine - Spirits - Mixers Groceries: Milk - Bread - Eggs - Etc. Water - Soda - Juice - Ice - Bait OPEN AT 10AM

611 Clark St. - RT #178, Utica, IL • 815.667.7050

For the Usual, and the Unusual!


2853 N. State Rt. 178, Utica, IL 815.252.2957

Friendly neighborhood tavern … On the Creek, At the Curve!

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

Your Best View of Starved Rock

• I&M Canal/Illinois

Waterway Information • Boat Safety Classes

May 7, Jun. 18, Aug. 20

• Group Programs • Gift Store

Did you know over 80% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket? Mention this ad during your next visit and receive a prize!

Life Jackets Worn...Nobody Mourns. US Army Corps of Engineers - Starved Rock Lock & Dam 950 N 27th Rd (Dee Bennett Rd), Ottawa, IL • 815-667-4054