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Starved Rock State Park's cultural history can be traced to 8000 B.C., when ancient villages and encampments lined the banks of the Illinois River. Over the ensuing years, Native Americans made this land their home. In the 1600s, explorers Pere Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet came through the area on their epic journey of the Northwest Territory. Marquette returned in 1675 to set up the Mission of the Immaculate Conception, the first Christian mission in modern-day Illinois. And in 1682, the French established Fort St. Louis the butte they called on Le Rocher (the rock). Pretty interesting, Huh?
Sure, but what happened after the French moved on is where the story gets really intriguing. According to legend (and never fully proven), Starved Rock gets its name from the Illiniwek who starved to death here. The story goes something like this: Ottawa Chief Pontiac was killed by an Illinwek and a battle to revenge his death ensued. The Illiniwek headed for the rock formerly known as Le Rocher, thinking the high vantage point would provide them a strategic military advantage. The Potowami decided the wait the Illiniwek out, knowing they'd eventually have to come down from the rock to eat and drink, or die of starvation up there. In the end, only a few Illiniwek escaped and survived, while the rest perished up on the isolated butte. And that, my friends, is how Starved Rock got its name.
In the early 1800s, businessman Ferninand Walther bought the area's land and established a vacation resort. Starved Rock Hotel offered accommodations, a dance hall, natural pool, and concession stand all built at the base of the rock. Although initially profitable, the resort eventually came upon hard times and Walther sold it to the Illinois Parks Commission for $146,000 in 1911. Starved Rock officially became a state park in 1912.
Seasonal waterfalls, stunning bluffs and rugged canyons left behind by melting glaciers dominate the landscape here. Outdoor activities at the park include hiking, canoeing, paddle boat cruises, cross-country skiing, trolley rides, fishing, and picnicking. The 18 sandstone canyons found along the park's 15 miles of hiking trails can be navigated on your own or by joining a free guided walk. If you're looking for a less strenuous way to see the sights at Starved Rock, you're in luck. Hop aboard the Belle of the Rock, is an authentic Coast Guard licensed paddle-wheel boat.
One of the most incredible things about Starved Rock is the majestic bald eagles that soar through the skies here. Take a short hike to the top of Starved Rock for live eagle viewing or join the park naturalist for a guided eagle viewing tour. The Birds of Prey shows and family activities at the Starved Rock Visitor Center are also a popular way to get up close and personal with our nation's emblem.
Cap off your visit by snuggling up in the historic Starved Rock Lodge or one of the cozy cabins nestled under towering pines and century-old oaks. Both were originally built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cover photo credit: Enjoyillinois.com.