NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Starved Rock State Park and Matthiessen State Park - Places Worth Revisiting

When Cory and I drove down to southern Illinois to pick up his friend for a visit at the end of September we stopped at Starved Rock State Park.

Chief Walks With the Wind - part of the Peter Toth Whispering Giants series

I never miss an opportunity to stop in and see how "Chief Walks With the Wind" is faring.  He's looking really well, as he should since he is only 27 years young and wearing some kind of protective coating.  You can read my short post about when Wayne and I stopped at Starved Rock in 2013 here.  A member of the Ho Chunk Nation, Sam Sine (Chief Walks with the Wind) and his family shared Native American stories and cultural programs at the park's lodge for nearly 50 years. 

Lots of stairs to navigate up and down along the canyons and bluffs.  I was a bit too early for true fall color!

The lodge is a great place to park and start hiking if you are just passing through.  There are 13 miles of trails,  yellow dots on posts indicate that you are moving away from the lodge or visitor center, and white dots mean you are returning.  On our return trip we stopped there again and I explored a section of the park I usually bypass, but on this visit I headed straight for St. Louis Canyon as I usually do.

Warm,gorgeous sandstone in St Louis Canyon 2016

I have great memories of when my mother and I visited for a Mother's Day weekend camping trip back in 2010.  Look at how young and cute we were!

Me and my mother in St. Louis Canyon 2010

Starved Rock is a favorite of my mom's, as a matter of fact she and my father went there for a weekend getaway at the lodge not long after Cory and I were there.  She and my father prefer hanging out near the Illinois River instead of wandering the woods as I do.

My mom looking for eagles 

A few miles down the road my mom and I also visited Matthiessen State Park  in 2010 where we had to navigate a flooded trail.  The park has 5 miles of well marked trails to explore, mostly along the canyon.  I put her to work carrying my tripod, she got a great workout that day!

Here's some info from the park's website on its history:
Matthiessen State Park was named for Frederick William Matthiessen, a prominent industrialist and philanthropist from LaSalle. He originally purchased the land near the end of the 19th century and operated it as a privately owned park for many years. Mr. Matthiessen employed about 50 people to construct trails, bridges, stairways and check dams. The area was originally referred to as “Deer Park,” in reference to the large deer population. The original 176-acre park consisted primarily of a long, narrow canyon with a small stream flowing through it. At that time these formations were called “dells,” a name that has stayed with the park. After Matthiessen’s death, the park was donated to the state of Illinois, which opened it as a public park. In 1943, the state renamed the park in honor of Matthiessen. Since then, the park has grown to 1,938 acres and includes much of the significant natural areas along the main dell, some former prairie land, and some forest land south of the original park.

It's a favorite picnic spot for the locals, perhaps they are happy to have a place to go to avoid all the tourists flocking to Starved Rock.

There aren't any camping facilities at Matthiesen, but there is a campground that is about equal distance between the two parks.  In September I drove through to check it out and while I was disappointed that it wasn't on Starved Rock's park grounds and would require getting in the car to drive there it was an adequate park though the showers were very outdated.  Illinois state parks do not put a lot of money into their parks trails and campgrounds as a rule, perhaps part of the problem is due to the fact that they do not charge admission or require park stickers.

Cory and I rented a cabin at a nearby KOA this fall and Wayne and I stayed at Hickory Hollow campground in 2013. Both of those parks are in Utica within a 10 minute drive and right where Interstate 39 and Interstate 80 meet.  Not much in Illinois is something I would recommend putting on your "must" outdoor list, but this area is worth a stop for sure!