Starved Rock State Park encompasses a section of sandstone bluffs and narrow canyons on the south bank of the Illinois River. The miles of trail, historical significance, well-appointed lodge, wildlife (including bald eagles in the winter), and proximity to Chicago make the park a popular destination year-round. While rock climbing is prohibited, ice climbing is permitted when conditions allow. To check ice and other park conditions, call 815-667-4726.
There are up to five canyons in which ice climbing is permitted when conditions allow:
The canyons are highlighted in blue in the map below; there are also signs and maps along the trails to indicate the canyons. The ranger station where you will need to sign in (see Red Tape) is also highlighted.
Per the state park website (see External Links):
I-39 southbound: South to I-80 east (exit #59). Go 2 miles to exit #81 (Rt. 178, Utica). Go south (right) 3 miles on Rt. 178 and follow the signs into the Park.
I-39 northbound: North to Exit #48 (Tonica exit). Go east (right) for approximately 5 miles to the T-intersection, which is Rt. 178. Go north (left) for approximately 5 miles and follow the signs into the Park.
I-80 Eastbound and Westbound: Get off at exit #81 (Rt.178, Utica). Go south 3 miles on Rt. 178 and follow the signs into the Park.
For precise directions from your location, use the following link:
View Larger Map
If you wish to stay overnight, your options include:
- hotel rooms at the lodge
- 133 Class A-Premium campsites
- youth group campsites
See the park website for reservation information or campsite permit information.
The lodge includes a nice restaurant (when they offer it, the prime rib buffet is recommended).
Superior Ice - Ice climbing information for many Upper Midwest areas
|According to Native American legend, Ottawa and Potawatomi warriors out to avenge the slaying of Chief Pontiac surrounded a band of Illiniwek on a bluff above the Illinois River. Rather than fight the Illiniwek directly, the attackers laid siege until the Illiniwek starved. Starved Rock derives its name from this event.
Today the park is not overrun by warring Native Americans but by tourists - the proximity to Chicago makes it one of the most visited parks in the state. The steep slopes of the river bluffs have been tamed by a series of boardwalks, staircases, and trails which carry thousands of visitors every weekend. They come for the waterfalls, the fall colors, and in the winter, the ice. The park is an unexpected gem in flatland central Illinois.
|There are two main trails: the Bluff Trail and the River Trail. The Bluff trail snakes along the cliff line, which is not a sheer edge but rather an increasingly steep slope that suddenly drops up to 80 ft. to the canyon floor. The trail is often without a barricade or hand rail, and unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear of an unlucky visitor making his way over the edge. Be careful especially in the winter when the whole park is covered in ice. The River Trail hugs the riverbank. There are many connecting trails (stairways) between the River and Bluff trails.
If you live in or happen to find yourself in the area of north-central Illinois, take a look around Starved Rock. And if conditions are right, bring a couple ice tools.
Thanks to dwhike for his Starved Rock Fall '08 album.