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There’s no shortage of RV rentals in LaSalle County, Illinois, and no shortage of scenic state parks to enjoy a motorhome camping trip. Illini State Park is in northern Illinois, just 80 miles southwest of Chicago. The 510-acre state park borders the Illinois River, across the water from the small town of Marseilles. You’ll find grassy picnic areas, dense oak forest, and beautiful cottonwoods along the river here. The park was named after the Illini natives that once inhabited the area, and there’s plenty of history to see here.
The Marseilles Moraine, features from the last ice age that flattened most of Illinois, left a little bit of a divot where Illini State Park is located. This changing topography helped create scenic rapids along this section of the river, which you’ll have a hard time finding elsewhere along the river. The rapids were so strong that Illinois created a separate canal for shipping to Marseilles, which parallels the river. The area was home to a large-scale coal mining operation until World War II.
The land on which the park now sits was once a sprawling, swanky country club in the early 20th century. The Civilian Conservation Corps eventually turned this golf course into a park in the early 1930s, and Illini became an official state park in 1935. The old CCC camp buildings are still standing today, and Illini State Park campers can walk around these historic buildings as part of a small network of hiking trails throughout the park.
Illini State Park provides several opportunities to stretch your legs. You can hike around the area near the falls via the short, easy Marasottawa Trail, accessible from all campgrounds at Illini State Park. The Illini-Wek Cross Country Ski Trail is a beautiful riverside loop trail for winter activities, but you can also enjoy the idyllic river from this trail in the summer too. For further exploration, you can walk the road to the west end of the park where the canal locks are located, as well as many picnic facilities. You'll find picnic tables along all other trails as well.
Birdwatchers have named Illini State Park as one of the best places for birdwatching in southern Illinois. The trees and water have created a habitat for several treasured birds, including warblers, thrushes, and other songbirds. Keep an eye out for other wildlife while you’re searching for birds, such as deer, beaver, and groundhogs.
The Illinois River is also great for fishing. There's a boat ramp on the east end of the park, and you can also fish from shore. Anglers can cast for catfish, bluegill, and bass, among others. You may also use the boat ramp to launch kayaks, but keep an eye out for barges coming into Marseilles. Park rules prohibit wading and swimming in the river.
The campground at Illini State Park is open year-round. Forty-five back-in RV sites can accommodate your rental RV up to 50 feet in length. Most sites, however, are in the 30 to 40-foot range. Sites have gravel driveways and grassy picnic areas with tables and fire rings. There are also an additional 55 tent sites with small driveways that may be suitable for standard-size rental campervans. Campers looking for more privacy may take issue with how close the campsites are, but the trees do provide excellent shade.
All RV sites at Illini State Park are equipped with 30-amp electric hookups, and there's a dump station at the park. Other campground amenities include showers, bathrooms with flushing toilets, and drinking water. Pets are allowed in the campground if supervised at all times and kept on a leash ten feet long or less. Please note that alcohol is prohibited in the Illini State Park RV campground. There are a couple of playgrounds for the kids throughout Illini State Park.
One interesting piece of history near Illini State Park is the 1848 Illinois-Michigan Canal, connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. While much of the canal was filled in when the railroads started booming, the portion of the canal near the park is still in use. You can explore several exhibits along the canal corridor to learn about its history.
The town of Marseilles is just a ten-minute drive across the river from the campground. You can fill up on both fuel and groceries in Marseilles; the I-80 travel corridor is also just an extra few miles to the north. Activities in Marseilles include zip line tours, bowling, and skydiving for the more adventurous. You’re not necessarily in Chicago proper, but you can still get some great pizza in Marseilles.
The closest large city is Joliet, 45 minutes to the east, where you can find larger outfitters if you need them. You can enjoy more hiking, fishing, and RV camping at nearby state parks, including Starved Rock State Park to the west and Kankakee River State Park to the east.