Starved Rock State Park | Outdoorsy

Starved Rock State Park
Guide

Introduction

Year-round, Starved Rock State Park’s towering canyons are visible and an active testament to the beautiful landscape that embraces this side of the Illinois River. It’s a setting that everyone can get enjoyment from. No matter the season, no matter the journey, you’re sure to soak up some fun at Starved Rock in Oglesby, Illinois.

Spring brings new life and cascading waterfalls; summer brings wildflowers and a taste for adventure. Fall’s colors never seem to disappoint, and winter’s icy wonderland creates a setting worth talking about. It’s a place where recreation doesn’t have to end as the temperature dances from one end of the thermometer to the next. In fact, many visitors like to enjoy the off-season, as it brings about a level of serenity not seen during active months.

This 2,630 acres delightful piece of Illinois is easily one of the state’s most beautiful destinations. There are 18 separate canyons, featuring vertical sandstone walls and moss-covered stones. Of these 18 canyons, about 14 sport some spectacular waterfalls. Visitors will also enjoy more than 13 miles of trails, most of which provide access to these different falls. Others go off to natural springs, sandstone overhangs, or awe-inspiring overlooks. The park can be described as “lush” and full of life. It is a place where all sorts of opportunities abound.

Come here to camp, fish, ski, hike, or simply park and take in the views. This is your RV adventure, and Starved Rock State Park won’t disappoint. If you'd like to take a break from your RV for a night or two, then consider renting a cabin or a room at the park's lodge.

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Camping Accommodations

45'
Max RV length
45'
Max trailer Length
Electrical hookup
Water hookup
Generator use
Food storage
Sewer hookup
Dogs & cats

RV Rentals in Starved Rock State Park

Transportation

Driving

Starved Rock State Park is easy enough to find and is situated a short distance off I-80. RVers traveling along this road will not encounter any restrictions along the way. The nearby city of Oglesby is just over four miles west of the park and if you need anything during your stay, you can find it there.

The roads leading to, and throughout the park, are laid out fairly straightforward. Signage is easily navigated, as are area maps. However, there are areas around the Visitor Center, the Lodge, and leading to the campground that seems to give some of the larger rig visitors a bit of grief. There is a rather low bridge leading off toward the grounds, so you will want to ensure your vehicle will make clearance. Reservations do not include directions or information as to where to check-in, so you will have to plan ahead and try to familiarize yourself with where you’ll want to go beforehand.

Parking

As this is a rather popular state park to visit in Illinois, you can expect the parking lots to be filled during peak seasons and optimal weather conditions. Several of the parking areas that lead to hiking trails and lookout points within the canyon will land on the side of “impossible.” If you’ve brought an extra vehicle, you may want to try to beat the crowds, as many lookout points and other areas of interest lie several miles from the campground. If you’re up for it, parking at the campground and making your way on foot or bicycle is really the way to go.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Starved Rock State Park

Campsites in Starved Rock State Park

Reservations camping

LaSalle / Peru KOA

A peaceful country retreat for tired travelers looking for a restful night’s sleep, LaSalle/Peru KOA campground features stunning starry skies and the sounds of nature. Just five miles south is the gorgeous Starved Rock State Park, with deep canyons and pretty bluffs, as well as miles of hiking trails, and waterfall viewpoints.

For more nature experiences, take in Matthiessen State Park, with trails and beautiful rock formations. Nearby small towns offer good eats, shopping, and golf courses. Enjoy the seasonal swimming pool, on-site fishing, off-leash dog area, and group pavilion at this peaceful retreat. On-site amenities include Wi-Fi and cable TV, and propane and firewood are available for purchase.

Starved Rock Campground

The campground is open all year long (unless posted otherwise), but does not require reservations in order to stay. Don’t be fooled - that doesn't mean you won’t want to make them. Peak seasons don’t make for very fruitful spur-of-the-moment trips as this campground can fill up fast. Reservations must be made more than three days prior to arrival, but can be made up to six months in advance. All reservations can be made online, and there is a non-refundable fee associated with all reservations.

First-come first-served

Starved Rock Campground

Upon arrival, guests are able to find information at the Campground Permit Booth for self-registration and walk-in sites. Starved Rock’s campground features 128 campsites that all come equipped with a full cement pad; 122 of these sites are perfect for RV and camper parking, though tent camping is also permitted here. Sites accommodate visitors further with a picnic table, fire pit, and 30- or 50-amp electrical hookups.

Some sites may have a slight gradient, so come prepared. Sites can accommodate RVs and campers of varying lengths, from 15 feet to 45 feet. If you have a larger rig, then you'll be best off trying to get sites 118, 47, 44, 25, 17, or 15, which are some of the larger sites. Sites can sleep up to four people a night, whether it be in a tent, RV, camper, or a mix. You can also bring your pets along on your camping trip at no extra charge.

Port-a-potties are found throughout the campground, and guests will also find two separate shower houses with flush toilets. Upon entering and exiting the campgrounds, please be sure to make use of the dump stations. Campsites are not equipped with water hookups, but campers can find water spigots within approximately 50 yards of their sites. Throughout the campground, you'll find dumpsters and trash cans for visitors to deposit there waste in.

If you've brought the kids, a playground area provides a perfect spot for them to run off the day’s energy. What you shouldn't bring: firewood. All firewood should be purchased at the campground as well as from local gas stations in Utica, Illinois, but nothing outside of LaSalle County. During firearms hunting seasons, the campground is closed in order to ensure guest safety.

Alternate camping

Alternative Camping

RVs and trailers looking to park outside of Starved Rock, or those who weren’t lucky enough to snag a reservation, can find accommodations in the nearby towns of Ottawa, Utica, Oglesby, LaSalle, and Peru. Nearby Matthiessen State Park also offers spectacular sites that are only a couple of miles from Starved Rock.

When campers are looking to stay with a little more style, visitors can enjoy the creature comforts of Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center, commonly known as one of the "Seven Wonders of Illinois." Here, you’ll find all the modern conveniences encased in a seasoned, 75-year-old cabin. Choose one of its 60 rooms that suits your needs. A variety of different bedding arrangements are available, and you can sleep between two and four people depending on what room you choose. The Lodge regularly hosts tours throughout the park and welcomes all to dine at its multiple restaurants. You’re certainly not without options.

A stone's throw away from the lodge, the park also has several cabins available. These are perfect for visitors looking for a more comfortable accommodation option, which is still out in nature. A variety of different cabins are available, including two sleepers, family cabins, and shared cabins with private rooms. You're sure to find something that you like!

Group Camping

The park also offers six group campsites that are perfect for scout camps and youth groups. You will need a group of at least 10 people to be eligible to book a group campsite, and at least five or more of those campers should be youths under the age of 19.

Each site can accommodate up to 25 people and 10 vehicles at a time. They are also equipped with a picnic table, fire pit, and you'll find a water spigot within 100 yards of your campsite. There is no electricity available at these group campsites, so come prepared. This is a pet-friendly accommodation option, and you can bring along your furry friends.

Seasonal activities in Starved Rock State Park

Off-Season

Hiking

Hiking during the off-seasons is such a serene experience. Throughout early winter, the park goes through many freezing and thawing phases, creating ever-changing ice formations within the canyon walls. They can be quite remarkable to behold. But, when there’s ice there, there’s also bound to be ice elsewhere. Be sure to come prepared with cleated shoes for extra traction to grip the slippery trails. Also, for novice hikers, don’t let the cold fool you - bring plenty of water!

Ice Climbing

In order to ice climb, climbers are expected to go as a group, bring their own equipment, and ensure all sign in using the log-in book at the front doors of the park’s maintenance building, across from the Visitor Center. If conditions allow, climbers may venture out and check the ice falls to see if they are suitable for climbing. The park does not, however, check the status of these ice falls. It’s certainly not a sport for the faint of heart. Those who dare to challenge the ice will find opportunities at LaSalle, Wildcat, Ottawa, and Tonti canyons. Climbers should enjoy this exhilarating pastime at their own risk.

Hunting

During the annual hunting season, both the Visitor Center and Starved Rock Lodge stay open; however, the campground does not. Quite a few hiking trails also remain open, but trails south of Route 71 are completely closed off to the general public. Hunters looking to enjoy the sport at Starved Rock State Park are only permitted to do so south of Route 71 and at neighboring Matthiessen State Park. Hunting is also only permitted during a specific time frame, typically well into December and throughout January. At the park, you'll be able to bag squirrels, deer, waterfowl, and more. It’s best to check in with the park for more details.

Horseback Riding

Many equestrian enthusiasts make their way to Starved Rock State Park to enjoy the winding trails, steep canyons, and spectacular vistas. Some things just aren’t the same unless you’re atop a horse. It’s okay if your horsepower ends with your vehicle; riding is available through Cedar Creek Ranch. It’s about a 15 minutes drive from the park and offers the best rides around (and through) the hills, valleys, and creeks of Starved Rock and nearby areas.

Cross-Country Skiing

This sport can be enjoyed in both the picnic area of the park and at neighboring Matthiessen State Park. If you don’t have your own equipment, you don’t have to miss out on the fun. Cross-country ski rentals are available at the Matthiessen Dells area every weekend throughout December and into March. It’s a perfect way to still get out and explore the grounds without being hindered by the snow. Wrap up warmly before venturing out.

In-Season

Waterfalls

Illinois is one of those areas that often feels almost endlessly flat. Farm country dominates this part of the state, so the topography of the park really lends a totally different feel. Starved Rock has been formed over thousands of years, as melting glaciers have carved through the earth. All of this water eroded and broke down what had lain in its path, with the exception of the sandstone that now makes up the cascading valleys and towering canyon walls. It is in these 14 of the 18 canyons that you can witness spectacular waterfalls; some of the most scenic in the area. Bring your camera, and come in the spring if you really want a show.

Bird Watching

Getting out and enjoying the natural beauty this park has to offer is just one of the added perks that coincide with bird watching. This area is a favorite spot for all things fowl, and annual migrations keep avian enthusiasts flocking to the site to see more than 225 different species of birds. No matter what time of the year you visit the park, you'll have the opportunity to glimpse stunning birds, so grab your binoculars. Bird watching is a superb way to explore the world around you and really embrace the beauty nature provides. If you haven’t ever tried bird watching, now may just be the chance.

Junior Ranger Programs

The park has many features for visitors of all ages to enjoy. To make sure your little ones get the most out of your Starved Rock State Park experience, you can help them join in the Junior Ranger Programs. The program presents two separate workbooks; one for children up to8 years and another for those 9 years and older. They are filled with all sorts of interactive activities for the kids to complete during their stay. Once completed, these workbooks can then be submitted for the Junior Ranger Certification. What a great way to learn more about the park!

Fishing

When out for a fishing trip, it’s important for visitors to note that boats are not permitted within 600 feet of the dam. It’s best to simply avoid dangerous areas with undertows and strong currents and stick to where the waters are known to be calm. Boats may be launched off of the western end of the park. Those looking to get a few bites may reel in catfish, bullheads, walleye, carp, white bass, crappies, and more. If you’re in need of some bait, feel free to head on down to the local bait shop to stock up. Remember to have your fishing license handy.

Kayaking and Canoeing

The Illinois River is sectioned off with available areas that are designated as “safe for use” for daily activities. Water sports are avidly enjoyed here, especially kayaking and canoeing. It’s such a wonderful, peaceful way to get out on the water, so make sure to bring your boat along! Even if you didn’t bring along your own equipment, you aren’t without the opportunity to indulge in this recreation. Starved Rock has daily rentals that can be booked online or paid in person. Just be sure to check the weather and the water conditions before you set out.

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