ILLINOIS,  Road Trips

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park

Illinois has some remarkable parks, Matthiessen, Buffalo Rock, and Starved Rock State Park are all within a few miles of each other along the Illinois River. Utica Illinois is a small town in Northern Illinois in La Salle County about an Hour and Forty-five minute drive from Chicago.

This is a relatively low elevation hike with several trails that loop and twist around each other. There are waterfalls, like this one throughout the park. Some trails like the French Canyon have water you will have to walk through, others have elevated paths and railings. No matter your hiking level, this place has a path for you.

Starved Rock State Park

Dogs: Yes, on leash.
NO Swimming
NO Biking Trails

NO Drones
Rte. 178 and Rte. 71
Utica IL 61373

The Visitor Center exhibit hall, park office, and information desk are open Monday through Friday from 9-4. Closed on weekends and holidays. The hiking trails are open all year, park closes after dark. There are over 13 miles of trails through 18 canyons that were made by snow melt eroding through sandstone rock.

For lodge reservations, call 1-800-868-ROCK (800-868-7625) or 815-667-4211, or visit the lodge website.


Starved Rock State Park

The trails have several waterfalls, rock formations and stairs. Be aware of the amount of stairs, so if you have health or physical limitations be prepared for that.

There are several waterfalls and natural formations that are amazing and beautiful to experience. I suggest taking a different trail back to the visitors center. I visited Starved Rock State Park in the winter and was able to take many of the trails and paths without much difficulty even with snow pack and ice.


Cardinal, Starved Rock Wildlife

The best part of Starved Rock State Park are the birds. I have never in my life seen so many Eagles in one place. They were everywhere. See this island out in the river.

Starved Rock State ParkStarved Rock State Park

Now look closer.

There are several eagles on this small island. Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles by the dozens. I stood and stared at them for what felt like an hour. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I was just floored. And this vantage point was the first stop on the trail, I was barely 200 feet into my hike when I saw them. This alone would have been worth it. I waterfalls and canyons were just icing on the cake.

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park


Fishing and Boating

Illinois River


Boats are launched from the west end of the park and can not go within 600 feet of the dam, as strong currents and powerful undertows can be dangerous. Catfish, bullhead, white bass, sauger, walleye, carp and crappie are common fish found in the Illinois River.


Illinois River Dam, State Park

Kayak rentals at Starved Rock are available with Kayak Starved Rock. Kayak season is May-September. Call 630-567-4653 for reservations.


Starved Rock State Park

Check the IDNR website for Hunter Fact Sheets for hunting programs at Starved Rock, including deer, wild turkey, dove, waterfowl, squirrel and furbearer programs. Hunter Fact Sheet. Call 1-815-667-4726 for hunting updates or trail closures during the hunting season.


Starved Rock State Park

Campground gates are open from 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. all year round, with the exception of the weekend before and after Thanksgiving due to that being the Doo Deer Hunt.

The Campground Permit Booth lists information on self registration for walk-in sites (first come- first serve) on the outside of the building upon entering the campground.

All sites are available for reservation. There is a $5 non-refundable reservation fee to book in advance. Each site is $25 per night, and $35 on holidays. Reservations must be made more than 3 days in advance and out to 6 months prior to the date of your arrival. Reservations are made online at ExploreMoreIL.

Starved Rock French Canyon

Contact the Visitor Center/Park Office at
1-815-667-4726 (M-F only from 9-4) if you are a non for profit youth group such as Scouts and need to place a camping reservation in our youth group area at the campground.

There are 129 Class-A Premium campsites available at Starved Rock State Park. All sites come equipped with a cement pad for RV or camper, area for tent (allowed up to 2 tents total), picnic table, fire pit with grill grate on top, and electric hook-up. Campers are allowed up to 2 vehicles at their campsite. The small lot at the entrance of the campground is for overflow cars if your group has more than 2 cars. Porta Potties, Water hydrants, are also on the premises. There’s also a shower house that has flushed toilets. The dump station and trash containers are at the entrance and exits. The campground also contains a playground area and shelter. Do not bring firewood in from areas outside of LaSalle County please. Firewood can be purchased at the campground as well as at local gas stations in Utica, IL.

The camp store in the campground that operates seasonally (usually May 1-Oct. 31) that sells firewood, ice, soda and other camping supplies. Hours: Mondays-Fridays from 3-7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Sundays from 12 p.m. -6 p.m.

Starved Rock State Park Campground.pdf


Park Concession TypeOpen Menu Phone Number Concession Website
Cabin Rentals 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage
Canoe/Kayak Rentals 630-567-4653 Starved Rock SP Concession Webpage
Electric Watercraft Rentals 630-567-4653 Starved Rock SP Concession Webpage
Firewood Sales 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage
Food and Refreshments 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage
Gift Shop/Souvenirs 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage
Gift Shop/Souvenirs 815-667-5357 Starved Rock Foundation Webpage
Lodge 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage
Restaurant 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage
Theater Productions 815-667-4211 Starved Rock Lodge Webpage

There’s now an App where you can see the park virtually.

History & Culture

Starved Rock State Park

The culture and history of this site can be dated back to 8000 BC but the name of the park comes from a Native American legend of three feuding tribes. One tribe instigated an altercation by killing the Chief of the Ottowa Tribe, Pontiac, which began a tense conflict with one of the three tribes. That tribe convinced the third tribe in the area to work with them and their warriors were able to outnumber the first tribe, they chased them to this top of the cliff where the tribesmen starved to death instead of coming down off the rock to face their adversaries. Aside from the Chief assassination, there is no archaeological evidence, or any evidence to prove the starvation story actually happened. Many historians and descendant in the area believe it was a moral story, something fathers told their sons to teach them about courage and bravery. That you shouldn’t start fights you can’t win, and it’s better to face your enemies.

When the French claimed the entire Mississippi Valley, the built a fort atop Starved Rock in 1682. After years of fighting the local tribe they abandoned the Fort St. Louis after only 20 years. It became a heaven for traders and trappers but by 1720 all the remains of the fort were gone. Starved Rock State Park

As per usual, I took way more pictures than I could possibly post on here so if you’d like to see more I have several accounts that I’ve posted more images on.

P interest

Happy Travels
See You Out There
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Writer Photographer at Dashboard Destinations
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  • Paolo

    I was wondering if Is Starved Rock was dangerous. And after researching a bit I think the park is especially good for tweens and older children. However, I think that hiking with small children can be dangerous. Especially when conditions are muddy and trails are slippery. Do you agree with me? Do you have safety recommendations?

    • NJKuhr

      Honestly, I was there in February when everything was covered in snow and Ice and felt safe. Of course there’s a chance for slips but there are so many wood raining and stairs in places where it gets rough that the trail is very safe.

  • Stephanie

    One of the most important things for me is for my dog, Olivia, to be able to go with me whenever I’m in an outdoorsy place and this destination sounds like something I could easily get my hands on and go on an adventure with my furry companionship. Also, those pictures that you took are mind-blowing; you’re really talented!

    • NJKuhr

      Aww, thanks. I feel the same way about pets. That’s why I always try to include if they are pet friendly. It’s something I include in my check list so people who don’t know won’t miss out on bringing their companions simply because they didn’t know. Thanks for the compliments on my photos. I am always trying to improve my photography skills and hearing that really motivates me to keep going.

  • Rachel

    Oh wow, this place isn’t really all that far away from me and it’s gorgeous! I like how they have so many different trails and the option to rent out a cabin as well. I love the fact that you included the history bit of the place on top of the amenities as well. Very well thought out article, thanks for sharing!

    • NJKuhr

      Thanks. I’m glad I could help. Dashboard Destinations is all about sharing travel destinations you could easily get to. without having to plan an extravagant luxury vacation.

  • Anastazja

    This is another great travel site with all the information needed for a wonderful few days on our RV road trip this summer.  We will be making our way from California to Boston and back so we’re looking for places to stop in both directions. The winter pictures of this park are beautiful.  I imagine that its just as beautiful in the summer.  The information on trails and amenities at the campground are really appreciated.  Thanks for this wonderful suggestion.

    • NJKuhr

      I am already planning a return trip to see it in the summer. I’m so happy I could help. Here at Dashboard Destinations we are all about making each road trip spectacular. 

  • LineCowley

    A trip to Starved Rock State Park to do a hiking trail seems like a must when I am next in that area. I love the look of the wooden stairs, so will certainly include them in the trail that I choose. 

    If swimming is absolutely forbidden because of the strong currents and undertows, are there restrictions on the areas where you can go kayaking? Is it recommended that you stay close to the edge?

    • NJKuhr

      Thanks for pointing out this discrepancy, I’ll have to adjust the article to explain but yes, there are strong currents and dangerous undertones that can pull swimmers under. Kayaks and boating is acceptable because the surface stays relatively calm in comparison. 

  • gifstandholidays

    Thank you Norma for a great review of the Starved Rock State Park. Your images are so captivating I would immediately like to visit the Park. Being an outdoors lover I would not mind if the landscape was the only thing I would experience but the opportunity to see some eagles would be an added to the experience.

    The reached history of the Area is capturing as well I would really like to visit.


    • NJKuhr

      Thanks, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Dashboard Destinations is designed for getting out and inspiring people to look closer to home when planning a trip.

  • Kokontala

    Hi, I’ve just gone through your article on starved rock state park, Illinois. Through these pictures I think is the best place for tours, It looks absolutely amazing and it seems there is a lot of fun as there is a park and hiking trails as you clearly mentioned. Thank you for sharing this amazing piece of writing with us. I definitely will be sharing it further to spread the word. Life is too short to miss road trips to places like this one.

  • Matiss

    Personally, I’m always on the lookout for great places to sightsee during the snowy season. I think too many people are obsessed with skiing and ice-skating, and not enough people take long, rewarding walks during that time when, really, we should. I got basically instantly hooked by the place once I read that there are a ton of eagles there. I have always been a person fascinated by those creatures. And it sounded like there are a bunch of other birds to look at as well. Also, I loved the section on history and culture. Thank you, I genuinely appreciate the article.

    • NJKuhr

      Absolutely. I’m happy to help. I couldn’t agree more, my favorite winter activity is hiking and getting out into the wild places.

  • Sunny

    Wow! I love your photos and the experience you shared. It must have been a beautiful lifestyle traveling and hiking and funding all of that through the Wealthy Affiliate program. Starved Rock State Park in Illinois looks beautiful. I can only imagine how it looks in the Summer. Regarding the eagles, I saw them in Juneau, Alaska. There are some of them there as well. And it is such a remarkable moment to see all those “zoo” animals in nature, where they belong. 

    Can’t wait for you to post about the STarved Rock State Park in the Summer time! I heard once that no question is stupid unless is not asked, so I am wondering are there some wild animals like bears or some others there? 


    • NJKuhr

      I don’t think there are bears but I did see deer, a fox, and other wild animals mostly birds but nothing dangerous. Thanks for asking questions. I appreciate it when people ask when i don’t think of it or remember than I can go back and add the information for the next readers.

  • Denislukic

    Woow the place is beautiful.
    Really worth a visit. I’m not happy you can’t take the dog, but I understand.
    The only thing is that I’m not a fan of winter, but I think it looks beautiful even in summer.
    Your pictures are great.
    You have a talent for photography.I also believe it’s not that dangerous. At least it doesn’t look that way to me in the photos.

    • NJKuhr

      Thanks for the great compliment. This place was easy to hike even with all the ice, so this summers going to be great even if it is full of water but I love river hikes so I’m a big fan. You can bring a dog as long as it’s on leash. 

  • Nina

    Thank you for this informative article with all the details about Starved Rock State Park. I was most impressed by the story of the origin of the name, which is related to the Native American tradition. Despite not being supported by evidence historically, it is a wonderful legend with a strong message.
    Otherwise, Starved Rock State Park is fantastic with all its rich nature and animals. I also haven’t seen so many eagles in one place yet, it’s definitely a wonderful experience to see so many of these magnificent creatures together.
    According to your presentation, I would love to visit Starved Rock State Park.
    Friendly greeting,

    • NJKuhr

      I appreciate the comment and am glad I could inspire you. I had never seen so many eagles in one place either. it took me a solid minute to figure out what I was looking at and another to believe it.

  • LineCowley

    Wow, Starved Rock State Park looks absolutely beautiful, even when covered in snow, so I can imagine that it must be lush with vegetation during the summer. With a drive of less than two hours from Chicago, it seems a must to visit when you are in the area, specially if you can see so many eagles. 

    • NJKuhr

      I thought so too. I was surprised to find such amazing hiking and wildlife just off the freeway. It made me really happy I was driving through and decided to stop and see what it was.

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