UPDATE March 21, 2020: Illinois State Parks, including Starved Rock/Matthiessen state parks, are closed until further notice in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. This closure includes all facilities at the parks including the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center.
Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River bluff in La Salle County is one of Illinois' most beautiful destinations. The park's 18 canyons feature vertical walls of moss-covered stone formed by glacial meltwater that slice dramatically through tree-covered sandstone bluffs. More than 13 miles of trails allow access to waterfalls, fed season runoff or natural springs, sandstone overhangs, and spectacular overlooks. Lush vegetation supports abundant wildlife, while oak, cedar and pine grow on drier, sandy bluff tops.
Recreational opportunities abound, from hiking to camping to fishing, boating and hunting. Special events are scheduled throughout the year. The Starved Rock Visitor Center is open year-round, and the 1930s-era stone and log Starved Rock Lodge offers luxury lodging, cabin rooms, and fine dining. For lodge reservations, call 1-800-868-ROCK (800-868-7625) or 815-667-4211, or visit the lodge website
Starved Rock State Park's cultural history can be traced to 8000 B.C., with Native Americans tribes and European explorers documenting villages and encampments near the park along the banks of the Illinois River. The park's name is derived from a Native American legend of a band of Illiniwek who died of starvation atop the 125-foot sandstone butte.
This area has been home to humans from as early as 8000 B.C. Hopewellian, Woodland and Mississippian Native American cultures thrived here. The most recent and probably the most numerous group of Native Americans to live here was the Illinois, from the 1500s to the 1700s. Approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Kaskaskias, a subtribe of the Illinois, had a village extending along the bank of the Illinois River across from the current park.
In 1673, French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette passed through here on their way up the Illinois from the Mississippi. Known as “Pere,” the French word for “Father,” Marquette returned two years later to found the Mission of the Immaculate Conception-Illinois’ first Christian mission-at the Kaskaskia Indian village.
When the French claimed the region (and, indeed, the entire Mississippi Valley), they built Fort St. Louis atop Starved Rock in the winter of 1682-83 because of its commanding strategic position above the last rapids on the Illinois River. Pressured from small war parties of Iroquois in the French and Indian wars, the French abandoned the fort by the early 1700s and retreated to what is now Peoria, where they established Fort Pimitoui. Fort St. Louis became a haven for traders and trappers, but by 1720 all remains of the fort had disappeared.
Starved Rock State Park derives its name from a Native American legend of injustice and retribution. In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe upriver from here, was slain by a Peoria brave (sub tribe of the Illinois) while attending a tribal council in southern Illinois. According to the legend, during one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge his killing, a band of Illinois, under attack by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte. The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless Illinois died of starvation- giving rise to the name “Starved Rock.”
The Illinois State Parks Commission was initially headquartered in Starved Rock State Park after the park was purchased in 1911.
History Brochures: Civilian Conservation Corps, Starved Rock Legend, and Fort Saint Louis.