Waterfalls and canyons: Starved Rock State Park
A lack of waterfalls can sometimes be beautiful. It is a reminder to have an open mind to different possibilities in life.
We were in Ottawa, Illinois and looking for something to do. Skydiving had brought us to the area, but clouds had put us on hold. Our options were to drive to Chicago or find something local to do. As I generally prefer forests to cities, we decided to do some googling of state parks.
Starved Rock State Park with a promise of waterfalls and sandstone canyons seemed like the natural choice. Upon arrival, signs informed us that recent dry weather meant the waterfalls would not be flowing. We decided to continue on and were very pleasantly surprised by what we found.
We started out at the visitors centre and walked to the first outlook named after the park. Although there was a nice view, this lookout was busy and touristy because of its proximity to the visitor centre. After a quick stop we continued on to more rustic trails deeper in the park. As we continued on, the paved trail dropped off into a pretty forest. Well worth the walk!
The first and probably my favourite stop was French Canyon, which has a dried out waterfall. This canyon was unique because you could walk up a dry stone river bed to get into the canyon. After some exploring we hiked up along the edge of the canyon before continuing onto Wildcat Canyon.
The trail between the two was heavily forested, but the forest floor was uniquely sandy. The sand gave way to occasional boardwalks before we emerged to the much larger Wildcat Canyon. This one was impressive in height, but also drew in more crowds. Our walk back took us along the sandy trails on the banks of the Illinois river. We stopped up a few look outs, but the canyons were really the main attraction for me.
Starved Rock State Park was voted the number one attraction in Illinois. I would suggest arriving in the morning because the park was really becoming busy on our way out. The parking lot was packed even on a Thursday! Overall a beautiful park with unique features that is well worth the visit.