About Apple River Canyon State Park


Henri Joutel, who accompanied LaSalle on his Mississippi Valley expedition in 1687, recounted tales told by travelers of Indian lead mines in the "upper Mississippi." The first European explorer to see the lead mines was Nicholas Perrot, a French trader who settled on the east side of the Mississippi in 1690. Scottish adventurer John Law was the first to exploit the mineral resource. His Company of the West, founded in Paris in 1717 on the fraudulent claim that the Illinois lead mines were well-developed, collapsed in what was known as the "Mississippi Bubble." American settlers arriving in the 19th Century drove out the Sauk and Fox Indians in the Black Hawk War. Galena, thriving on the profits of lead mining, became a roaring boom town. By the hundreds, miners entered the country through a canyon, which now is one of the principal attractions of the Apple River Canyon State Park.

The town of Millville was established within what now is Apple River Canyon State Park, but not a trace of it remains. Named after its two sawmills, Millville became a stop on the Galena-Chicago stage route and flourished until 1854, when the Illinois Central Railroad, building its line from Freeport to Galena, passed 4 miles north of the town. A devastating flood in 1892 washed out the dam, swept away many buildings, and drove the people out of the town forever.

Natural Features

Flowing for countless centuries, the Apple River has cut through limestone, dolomite and shale deposits carving the canyon and creating massive cliffs rising high above the water. Upon close examination, the colorful canyon reveals walls dotted with mosses, lichens and tenacious bushes rooted to the sheer walls by minute crevices.

The glacial sweep which leveled hills and filled valleys in other parts of the state left this area unscratched. Commonly referred to as the Driftless Area because of the lack of glacial episode, large numbers of fossil remains are present on the surface in areas throughout northwestern Illinois. Lack of glaciation also was responsible for making lead veins easily available, which contributed to early development of the area.

Apple River Canyon State Park contains wildlife including deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, eagles, hawks and 47 varieties of birds. At least 14 different ferns and over 500 different herbaceous plants and 165 varieties of flowers including the diminutive Bird's-eye primrose, can be seen throughout the park.

Surrounding Area Attractions

Discover Jo Daviess County with wineries, antique shops, riverboat cruises, 10 golf courses, historic sites and museums, spa services and excellent dining all within 30 minutes of Apple River Canyon State Park.   For more information contact: Galena Country Welcome Center, 123 N. Commerce St., Galena, IL 61036 (815)776-9200, galena@visitgalena.org