Scamping at Starved Rock State Park

I've lived in Wisconsin for over fifty years now.  During that time, I've been trained/conditioned to belittle the flatlanders who live to our south in the State of Illinois. Every summer weekend, a long procession of folks from Illinois drive up to Wisconsin for outdoor recreation.  The idea of someone from the Badger state heading south to Illinois for outdoor recreation just seems upside down. 

Nevertheless, one day in the early spring, I was reading a magazine article about Starved Rock State Park, and the photos were amazing.  In fact, the scenery reminded me of things I'm used to seeing around here at Devil's Lake, the Wisconsin Dells, and Gibraltar Rock.  

Starved Rock is just south of Interstate 80 and only about an hour from the southwest edge of the Chicago metropolitan area.  That means less than three hours from my house in Wisconsin.  So as tourists from Illinois headed up to the Dells in late April, Julia and I headed south into Illinois on a Monday morning.  

In April, you could make camping reservations at Illinois State Parks three days in advance of camping.  I could tell that there were going to be open campsites.  When we arrived, there was a helpful map at the campground entrance detailing which sites were available for the next 1 or 2 days.  We made a list of likely spots and quickly found one to our liking.  

The day was still young, so we were off to the trails.  The first thing we noticed is that this is a very heavily utilized park--even on a weekday afternoon in April.  Many families, young children and dogs were on the trail.  Thankfully, all of the other dogs were leashed. That makes all of the difference in the world where my dog Callie is concerned.  She still doesn't like other dogs, but the situation is at least safe and controllable.  If she is overly aggressive, I just scoop her up into my arms and walk by the other party.  She doesn't like it, but she puts up with it. 

The further that we hiked away from the main parking lots and lodge, the fewer people we saw.  That was okay because we were here to see nature.  And there was a lot to see.


We stayed two days and nights  There was plenty of time to relax at the campsite.

And in town.  We spent a pleasant late afternoon at the Lone Buffalo brewpub in Ottawa, Illinois.

With such great natural beauty and good beer, we wondered why we had not previously ventured into northern Illinois for camping.  We decided to press our luck and continued south.


  1. "natural beauty and good beer.." It doesn't get any better. Trying different brewpubs makes it much more enjoyable.

  2. I too found Starved Rock to be pretty but a bit crowded. In fact, when there on an over-night I encountered not one but two groups of the most dangerous trail-animal known, the dreaded, unaccompanied gaggle of teenage girls!

    I find Southern Illinois nice, especially early in the season before it starts getting buggy.

    1. The mosquitos were just starting to come out at the end of our Illinois trip. Most of it was entirely bug free. Come to think of it, we really didn't see many teenagers either. A lot of young families and the new species: young professionals "working at home" at the state park.


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