Totally forgot about this walk – at Matthiessen State Park in LaSalle County northwest of Chicago, early fall. We just wanted to see some water falls after a significant rain in the area. The Cascade Falls in the Lower Dells didn’t disappoint. It was quite pretty, with ample amount of water. It was a fairly good hike too reaching the falls and the swimming hole – amid lush vegetation (too bad the fall colors hadn’t arrived yet) in the canyon, along streams, of the prairie and the forest. There were also other minor falls along rock faces that were painted by oozing minerals.
Frequent photo buddy Mark Marshall and I were there quite early in the morning so we had the place to ourselves, except for another photographer who came a few minutes after us. After about an hour and a half hike around the area, we decided to have lunch at Starved Rock State Park, a few miles north. Starved Rock is the more popular park in LaSalle County and has amenities for outdoor dining in a restaurant overlooking the Illinois River gorge.
And a turkey vulture flew over while we were having lunch!
The main falls at Starved Rock didn’t have much water though.
The Illinois Canyon is one of the many sandstone canyons formed by glacial meltwater in Starved Rock State Park. Several, including the St. Louis, French, Wildcat, and Illinois canyons have waterfalls. Our “Early Risers” group went out last Saturday, June 3 with a big plan of hiking several of the canyons. But in the end, we settled for the less-visited and relatively untouched Illinois canyon. Just as well as there were hundreds of people in the main areas of the park (near the lodge) and the popular canyons.
In the Illinois canyon, when we arrived at the end of the trail, there were only a few kids (and their grandfather) swimming in the main swimming hole at the end of the canyon. There swimming hole was reached by a less developed trail going to the end. The walk is spectacular as the canyon is bounded on both sides by high sandstone walls with many waterfalls along the way (many of which are mere trickles of water) but you will be rewarded by the swimming hole with a small beach and of course the low waterfall emptying into the pool.
We found ourselves talking to the grandfather who told us that they have been going there for over 30 years and if we follow an unmarked trail just a little bit south of the pool, going up the wallface, we will see more waterfalls upstream of the river and even encounter the two branches of the river that form the main one emptying into the pool.
So we just did that, climbed up the wall (steep, but not that difficult) and followed a trail to the river upstream where two deep pools and several waterfalls (one quite high) were located. We stopped there for awhile, did some photography, and then waded upstream to find the two rivers that formed the main one. We reached up to a shelf of rock that spanned the river allowed the river to form a low waterfall …and decided to stop there.
As we still have to explore much of the area, not just Starved Rock but the small towns along the Starved Rock corridor.
Maybe next time.