For years I have been talking about Starved Rock State Park and luckily, this past weekend, I managed to return. I remember the fun we had as a family when we took the boys there, staying overnight at the lodge and hiking during the day and swimming at night in the lodge pool.
A friend of mine, Joel, likes hiking as well as I do, and we decided to make a weekend of it. We arrived on Friday, on a weekend that was supposed to be relatively nice, that is, until the last minute. Strangely, although it seemed as if we would be rained out, we were not, and we had a great hike.
We arrived on Friday, on a day that was warmer than planned, had lunch at the lodge, and then headed out for the actual Starved Rock. There is a legend attached to it, involving the murder of the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, which caused a clash between the Illinois tribe and the Ottawas (accompanied by other tribes) and forced the Illinois to seek haven on the top of what was then called ‘Le Rocher,’ a tall piece of rock facing the Illinois River. As it turns out, their haven had neither food nor water and instead of coming down to meet the other tribe, the Illinois stayed on top and starved and died from lack of food and water.
After that, we hiked in the drizzle and heat (it was well over 70 degrees) and visited other locations east of the ‘Rock.’
The next day we went to the nearby Matthiessen State Park, which I have been wanting to visit for years and took a walk below to the beautiful Dells it has. Despite lack of rain, of late, there was a small creek, waterfall, and pool as well and it was well worth the effort. On our way down, we also saw a very large snake coiled around the post and fence piece protecting us from a fall into the abyss. This was all during the morning, because in the afternoon, there was quite a downpour. From my research, it looks as if the snake was a water snake.
On Sunday, we were back at Starved Rock and went to the St. Louis Canyon, which was amazing and also worth the effort, a cascade of water from a very tall height. Once again, even though it was October, it was hot out.
It was definitely something I would do again, and more than once. The Parks, which are free, are spectacular; especially when you juxtapose their canyons with the flat prairie surrounding them.