LaSalle County – it’s scenic, friendly, and brimming with all sorts of fun things to do. It boasts four state parks, fish and wildlife areas, and offers endless opportunities for a perfect day trip or weekend getaway. So what are you waiting for? Come and join us!
Starved Rock State Park
Voted the #1 attraction in Illinois, Starved Rock State Park is one of the premier publicly held natural areas in all of Illinois. The park has eighteen distinct canyons that were formed out of St. Peter sandstone by glacial melting and the Illinois River. Starved Rock State Park, Visitor Center, and Lodge offer a large variety of activities for you to enjoy, including self-guided and guided hikes, boating, camping, trolley tours, events, live shows, dining, shopping, and much, much more.
In Starved Rock, the majority of the canyons boast waterfalls, but the most popular can be found in St. Louis, French, Tonty, LaSalle, Ottawa, and Kaskaskia Canyons. Waterfalls in Starved Rock are seasonal and dependent upon precipitation. The best times to view waterfalls are in the spring and after heavy rainfall.
Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen is a true gem in Illinois. The park’s beautiful rock formations, canyons, mineral springs, streams, seasonal waterfalls and icefalls, along with the Vermilion River running through the park, are a genuine delight for the senses. Adding to the grandeur of the main canyon is a 45-foot drop between the Upper and Lower Dell. There are five miles of hiking trails for leisure walks or brisk hikes to lead you to these spectacular spots.
Buffalo Rock State Park
Buffalo Rock is a 298-acre park on a bluff with trails and overlooks with magnificent views of the Illinois River. One of the most prominent displays of outdoor sculpture anywhere is at Buffalo Rock in a collection called the “Effigy Tumuli,” which was executed by artist Michael Heizer. It was inspired by Native American burial grounds that were once created thousands of years ago. The sculptures include a snake, turtle, catfish, frog, and water strider.
Buffalo Rock State Park has a variety of amenities and activities, including picnic areas, hiking, biking, and cross-country ski trails, bird watching, canoeing, baseball diamond, and snowmobiling by way of the I&M Canal Access Point across the road from the park. Buffalo Rock also is home to two American bison that reside in the park across from the baseball diamond.
Illini State Park
With its abundant wildlife and bordering the Illinois River, Illini State Park was once home to the Illini Indian tribe. Today, LaSalle County birders mention this park as one of the best sites in the county for viewing migrating vireos, warblers, thrushes, and other songbirds in fall. Illini is a 510-acre park with a baseball field, a campground with 104 sites, and a boat ramp, along with areas for fishing, hiking, biking, and more. During the winter, you can trek the cross-country skiing trails and enjoy sledding on the hills. A shelter is available to warm up after hours of fun. At the far west end of the park stands a living monument, which celebrates the lives of soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Illinois Fallen Soldiers Tree Memorial consists of 250 oak trees on 2.5 acres of land.
Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail
Rivaling the beauty of LaSalle County’s State Parks is a 96-mile state trail offering views for nature lovers, information for history buffs and action for sportsmen.
For Access In LaSalle County:
LaSalle: I&M Canal Lock #14 Access
Rt. 351/Joliet Street
Utica: Parking west of downtown on Canal Street/Dan Carey Park
Ottawa/Buffalo Rock: Access Dee Bennett Road
West Ottawa: Boyce Memorial Drive
East Ottawa: Fox River Park • Park in the lot on Superior Street.
Marseilles: Main Street and canal intersect
Seneca: Main Street and canal intersect
400 Courtney Street
This riverfront park includes an amphitheater, two boat launches, three docks, a fishing area, playground, toboggan run, a riverwalk, and shelters.
2700 Airport Road
Baker Lake is a man-made lake that offers fishing, a one-mile paved walking path, a covered picnic area, picnic benches, and restrooms.
Catlin County Park
2560 E 1251 Road
Catlin County Park is a 333-acre park acquired in 1970 by the LaSalle County Conservation District. The park’s well-organized trail system hosts fourteen distinct trails, plus numerous connecting trails. These trails course throughout the park’s habitat, which includes its various streams and ponds. The park’s horse trails are also recognized as some of the best trails in the area. Open May through November.
2997 Route 71
The 253-acre Dayton Bluffs Preserve is the Ottawa community’s newest public preserve, which is owned by The Conservation Foundation and managed by the City of Ottawa. The preserve follows the Fox River for nearly a mile, sporting 14 ravine systems and a drop of more than 100 feet from the bluffs to the river. Though there is a parking area, public amenities, such as formal trails and bathrooms, do not yet exist. Planning is in process. The grand opening is on May 20, 2017.
Hopalong Cassidy River Trail & Canoe Launch
West Main Street, Route 18
This 0.5 mile trail parallels the swift-flowing water of the Vermilion River. Visitors can follow this trail through urban forest of mulberry, hackberry, oak and maple. Blue jays, chickadees, and woodpeckers flit in and out of the riparian trees as butterflies and dragonflies frolic along the trail’s sunnier stretches.
Lake Kakusha is a man-made lake with fishing, shelters, picnic areas, and trails.
Marilla Park Road
This park is a 60-acre wooded park with fishing, hiking, and a six-mile mountain bike trail used for part of the Illinois State Championship Series.
This park features a fishing pond with a beautiful pier right off the track. The track is 1/3 of a mile long with six workout stations. There is a playground with baby swings, regular swings, a pirate ship, and bongo drums. McPhedran Park is unique because it is the only park in town that is pet friendly–dogs are allowed!
Mitchell’s Grove Nature Preserve
East 5th Road
This 184-acre preserve offers hiking and hunting and is located on the Troy Grove Blacktop, one mile north of LaSalle, at the junction of Tomahawk Creek and Little Vermilion River.
Riverwalk & Fox River Park
1025 Ontario Street
A paved walking path starts at Fox River Park at East Superior and Champlain Streets and continues to Downtown Ottawa along the Illinois River. The park includes a splash pad, 9-hole disk golf course, playground, shelter, docks, boat launch, fishing area, and more.
Sandy Ford Natural Area
1399 North 18th Road
This beautiful 200-acre site with hiking trails is located on the east bank of the Vermilion River. It contains two creeks, a floodplain forest, dry bluffland forest, hill prairies, and sandstone cliffs.
Shabbona County Park
4178 Co Hwy 22
Picnic areas, open fields, fishing ponds, and several shelters–many with electricity–are featured at this county-owned park on the banks of Indian Creek. The 21st century tranquility sharply contrasts with the violent clash of cultures that earned the park its place in American history. The park is named for the Potawatomi Chief Shabbona who tried to protect the white settlers. Open May – October.
East 4th Road
Snyder’s Grove is a 104-acre preserve with hiking trails, playground, picnic area, and shelter.
Spring Lake Nature Area
1413 E 16th Road
This is a city park with a natural waterfall, creeks, hiking trails, playground, picnic area, and shelter.