Starved Rock State Park is a state park in Illinois, characterized by 18 canyons within its 2,630 acres. Located near Ottawa, IL along the south bank of the Illinois River, Starved Rock State park averages three million visitors annually, the most for any Illinois state park
Prior to European contact, was home to Native Americans, particularly the Kaskaskia who lived in the Grand Village of the Illinois across the river. Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette were the first Europeans recorded as exploring the region.
Starved Rock State PARK VISITOR Frequently asked questions
Q: Where are the waterfalls?
A: falls are generated by snowmelt and rainfall. They occur March until June but, may dry out July through September. Heavy rains in the months of October through December may replenish the canyon waterfalls. Please remember wading and swimming or using the canyons as waterslides are prohibited and dangerous activities. Fines start at $195 per person.
Q: What is the best trail?
A: Every trail and its features are picturesque at the park! The best part of Starved Rock is that the topography of the sandstone canyons and bluffs can be seen throughout the park’s 13 miles of trails. The best trail is whatever trail you choose to take and the distance you are willing to hike.
Q: Where can I find trail suggestions?
A: Trail suggestions can be at the Starved Rock Visitor Center.
Q: Where can I find trail maps?
A: Trail maps can be found at every trail intersection and parking lot onsite at Starved Rock State Park. The Park will be going paperless (no paper maps) by 2023. Trails are clearly marked with trail markers and brown directional signs.
Q: Are there bathrooms or water fountains on the trails?
A: Due to the topography of the park’s canyons there are no restrooms, trash cans, or fountains located on the trail system. Bathrooms are located at the Starved Rock Lodge, Starved Rock Visitor Center, Lone Point Shelter, La Salle Canyon parking lot, Overflow parking, and the main parking lot in front of the Starved Rock Visitor Center.
Q: Are dogs allowed?
A: Yes, dogs are allowed at the park, but not inside of the buildings unless they are a certified service animal with a vest or collar. Dogs must always be leashed, provided water, and never left unattended, or left alone inside of a parked vehicle.
Q: Does the park allow rock climbing?
A: Rock climbing is never allowed anywhere within the park due to the fragile geology that composes each of the park’s canyons, trail system, and bluffs. Fines for climbing or going off trail start at $195 per person.
Q: Can I fly my drone at the park?
A: Drones are never allowed at Starved Rock State Park due to the number of visitors on the trails, picnic area, and overlooks, and the disturbance to wildlife such as the park’s nesting bald eagle population.
Q: Is there a fee to enter the park or do I need a park pass?
A: The wonderful thing about Illinois is that all state parks are free.
Q: Where can I find park programs, hikes, and events?
A: Park programs are FREE and some do require registration.
Q: Where can I find trolley or boat tours?
A: Trolley and boat tour tickets can be purchased through the Starved Rock Lodge. Please visit Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center or call 815-667-4211.
Q: Are there any restaurants at the park?
A: Yes, the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center hosts a restaurant, bar and grill with outdoor seating, cafe, and concession stand at the park. The restaurant, bar and grill, and cafe are located inside of the Lodge while the concession stand is located inside of the Starved Rock Visitor Center. Visit their website today to view hours and menu options.
Q: Where can I picnic at the park?
A: Picnic areas are located along the Illinois River or lower area by the boat ramp and main parking lot. Due to issues with litter, picnicking is not allowed along the trail system or within the canyons please.
Q: Where can I fish at the park?
A: Great fishing spots can be found from the boat ramp west of the Starved Rock Visitor Center down along the sea wall of the Illinois River. Fishing is not allowed anywhere else in the park, including areas off of the trail system. Valid fishing licenses are required for the state of Illinois.
Q: Where can I kayak at the park?
A: Kayak Starved Rock manages all kayak rentals and tours out of Lone Point Shelter on the east end of the park just off of route 71. Please view their website and call Kayak Starved Rock directly for hours of operation and to make reservations.
Q: Does the park have a boat launch?
A: Yes, the boat launch is located off of the west entrance of the park from route 178. There are no docks, just a ramp and parking lot.
Q: Where and when can I see bald eagles?
A: Bald eagles can be seen throughout the year fishing along the Illinois River. Greater concentrations of eagles can be seen perched on Leopold or Plum Island in front of the Starved Rock Lock and Dam when the Illinois River freezes over in the month of January depending on the temperatures that season. The best viewing locations in the month of January are from the sandstone butte known as Starved Rock, the sea wall along the Illinois River across from the visitor center, or at the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center located just across from the park off of Dee Bennett road.
Q: When and where can I see icefalls?
A: Icefalls can be found in the sandstone canyons along green marked trails at the park in the month of January. There are 8: French (not suitable in winter for those without micro cleats or yaktrax), Wildcat, La Salle, Ottawa, Kaskaskia, Illinois, St. Louis, and Aurora. Tonti is closed to hikers. Ice climbers please view further information under the Activities tab listed above and follow Ice Climbing Starved Rock on Facebook for updates given by local ice climbers during the season.
Q: Does the park get busy, and is it hard to find a parking spot?
A: Starved Rock State Park’s busy season falls between mid-March and the first week of November. Friday through Sunday from 9-3, is the busiest time of the day at the park. Trails can become congested, and parking lots will close when parking spaces fill to capacity. Park staff will reopen parking lots or the park after 3 p.m. when most visitors begin to leave for the day. Please follow Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks on Facebook for up to date information in regards to park closures and openings through the busy season.
Q: Can I bike along the trails at Starved Rock State Park?
A: Bikes are not allowed on the trails at Starved Rock due to the fragile sandstone geology, but you can travel just 2 miles south of the park to the Matthiessen Vermillion River Area at Matthiessen State Park where there are biking trails to enjoy!
Q: Do I need to register my group for a field trip, family gathering, etc?
A: Yes, all groups of 20 or more people must complete an Activity Permit and submit to the park office or by email to DNR.StarvedRock@illinois.gov at least 2 weeks in advance of visit for site and IDNR approval.