Starved Rock State Park



Illinois' Starved Rock State Park is just south of I-80 about 90 miles west of Chicago near the town of LaSalle. The park features large sandstone bluffs along the shores of the Illinois River. The park features camping, miles of hiking trails, boat and canoe rental and another of other activies. Eagles are regularly sighted at the park. The park receives a lot of visitors and is often quite crowded.

Small streams have carved a number of small and interesting canyons into the sandstone. Seasonal waterfalls can be found at the heads of these canyons. I have seen claims that there are 18 waterfalls in the park, but most rarely have any water and almost never have a lot of water.

The 20' LaSalle Canyon Falls is the most likely to have water. Its width varies widely depending on the season. There are small cascades above and below the main plunge. The trail goes right behind the falls. The canyon and falls are about two miles from the visitor center. The canyon is only a half mile from the Parkman's Plain trailhead.

The 15' Kaskaskia Falls was also running modestly in early June. There is a 80' Falls in St Louis Canyon, a 50' Falls in French Canyon, multiple high seasonal falls in Tonti Canyon and several others.


Kaskaskia Canyon Falls June 2005

St Louis Canyon Falls March 2005

French Canyon Falls June 2005 (dry)

Wildcat Canyon contains a 80' foot waterfall that was still running in June. This waterfall is relatively close to the lodge. The is an overlook on the rim and a set of stairs lead you to base. This is a steep and narrow canyon and people have fallen to their deaths here.


Wildcat Canyon June 2005

Wildcat Canyon Falls March 2005

Wildcat Canyon Falls June 2005

Tonti Canyon is a very rectangular canyon next to LaSalle canyon. Two seasonal creeks fall into this canyon. An old trail follows the western rim of this canyon. It leads to a washed out bridge just above the larger of the canyon's two falls.


Tonti Canyon Falls

Tonti Canyon

Tonti Canyon

Ottawa Canyon is alongside Kaskaskia Canyon. Ottawa Canyon has less water and has a result the canyon is steeper and the falls, when they have water, are higher. A stairway to the rim of the gorge was damaged by trees and removed in 2005. It seems to be a general trend that the rim trails are being closed off in the park.


Ottawa Canyon

Ottawa Canyon

Ottawa Canyon Falls

On the way to Kasaskia Canyon and Ottawa Canyon you will pass the Council Overhang. This is a recess cave that is 50 or so feet high, about as deep and 100 feet across. There is a lot of yellow and orange in the sandstone with black and brown streaks mixed in. I do not know if any councils were ever actually held in this cave, or if that is just a European fancy.

This is not the greatest waterfall adventure because the waterfalls only flow in the winter, early spring or after a good rain and you have to have a bit of luck. For a brief time in April or May you can find leaves on the trees, the flowers in bloom and water flowing over the waterfalls. However even without the waterfalls the canyons are really beautiful and there are plenty of trails to explore.


Shore of Illinois River

Hennepin Canyon

Hennepin Canyon

French Canyon

Mathiessen State Park is just a few miles away and it too features a number of seasonal waterfalls and interesting little canyons. Mathiessen's Cascade Falls is also seasonal but has considerably more water than most of Starved Rock's falls. These two parks are sort of Illinois' version of Hocking Hills. Hocking Hills and Starved Rock/Matthiessen both contain sandstone ledges, seasonal waterfalls, trails through and above gorges, and recess caves.

The park was named for an incident (legend?) in which a band of Illiniwek Indians sought refuge on the butte from a group of hostile Ottawa and Potawatomi Indians. Unable to come down they eventually starved to death on the butte.

Nearby Falls

Illinois has a severe waterfall shortage. There are no non-seasonal waterfalls within 100 miles of this area of which I know. Cascade Falls can be found in Mathiessen, but you need to travel a long way to find a waterfall with a significant amount of water.


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Last Modified: Saturday, 26-Nov-2011 08:01:16 MST.

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