Stunning canyons in the middle of Illinois? Why, yes! Starved Rock State Park located about an hour and a half drive from Chicago will give you just that: stunning sandstones canyons and high cliff views of the Illinois River.
The park gained its name from a legend of a great battle between Native American tribes. One tribe, the Illinois, took refuge on the high rocks overlooking the river and after many days of waiting they eventually starved to death. A rather grim history; however the park is home to geological splendors. From the remains of a fort that once sat atop it’s bluffs, to the eighteen canyons to explore – there is surely enough to keep visitors busy for an entire day.
Walking in a winter wonderland. We were incredibly lucky to experience a fresh snowfall while we visited. It was almost magic for the kids; who rarely get to see snow because of where we live.
I have grown into the habit of grabbing my DSLR to take along, and I am so glad that I have. Flashes of red were everywhere between the trees. The bright contrast against the snow made the cardinals unmistakable and it was such fun snapping photos of them snacking on berries amongst the trees. I use a Canon Rebel T3i camera and for these shots I was using my Canon 55 – 250 mm lens. While it’s not the absolute best of telephoto lenses, for my purposes it works fantastically. As a hobbyist photographer, it has the versatility to help me capture the moments I am trying to and in great detail.
After consulting with the very helpful rangers on duty that day, we headed out to take in a couple of the easy hikes before we headed to see family. The visitor center is worth a stop with interesting displays about the parks history and helpful information about trails. I always recommend stopping at a visitor center if there is one. Usually they are full of wonderful information (homeschool lessons!) and employees and volunteers who are eager to help you have your best experience. The hikes we picked were the stairs and boardwalk to see the top of Starved Rock and then back down to see French Canyon. I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to offer this advice: these hikes can be extremely dangerous. Going in a fresh snow, though beautiful, caused some of the stairs and pathways to be slippery. We chose the easiest of the hikes and stayed away from the cliffs. It is of crucial importance that you respect the guidelines and stay on the trail, there are a number of people that fall to their deaths each year from the cliffs. However, if you stay on the trails and be mindful of your surroundings, you will have a wonderful time.