Get inspired by top travel stories, and discover even more reasons to #EnjoyIllinois.
Located in the heart of the Rock River Valley, the 385-acre White Pines State Park provides the perfect setting to enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, and picnicking. And no one knew this better than it's former inhabitants: The Native American Sauk tribe. Though their leader Black Hawk fought valiantly to keep the Sauk settlement intact, the Black Hawk War eventually forced the tribe out of the area.
In 1903, the Women's Council started lobbying the Illinois State Legislature to designate White Pines Woods, as it was known back then, a state park. Their effort culminated in $30,000 being set aside to preserve the land and its native virgin white pine trees. Unfortunately, the measure was soon vetoed, citing prohibitive costs. The "Pine Woods Bill" was reintroduced repeatedly (and frustratingly!) until the site finally received the desired designation in 1927.
When the Depression began, the Civilian Conservation Corps became a much-needed source of employment. The White Pines Inn, a lodge that still stands in the park today, is an example of one of its many construction projects. Two hundred men, many of whom were veterans, built the facility between 1933 and 1939. After it was completed, they went on to add a breezeway and restaurant to it, as well as construct nineteen additional cabins, picnic and trail shelters, and footbridges inside the park.
Today, there are 13 one-room cabins and three cabins with four rooms visitors can rent. The White Pines Inn Restaurant offers homemade delicacies, banquet facilities, and a dinner theater. All have modern amenities and are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Among the park's most interesting features are the concrete fords that span the creeks, allowing visitors to drive through the flowing streams, with an accessible path leading to the stream bank for wildlife watching and fishing. Camping and picnicking are also popular at White Pines, with shaded picnic areas along Pine Creek and more than 100 campsites. There are 7 hiking trails and 2 cross-country ski trails here. In addition, the south boundary of the historic Chicago-Iowa Trail, a bike trail made up of abandoned stretches of the former Chicago Great Western Railway, runs through the park.
Why visit White Pines State Forest? For the magnificent trees, moss-covered cliffs, and trailing vines line the meandering banks of Spring and Pine creeks. For the colorful beds of blossoming trout lily, solomon's seal, bloodroot, blue-eyed grass, spring beauty and hepatica. For it's serene, picturesque beauty. For the modern lodge facilities amidst a beautiful forest. No matter the reason, there's no better place to retreat from the everyday routine than the open spaces at White Pines.
Cover photo credit: c_botography via Instagram.