Starved Rock State Park located along the Illinois River in La Salle County is one of Illinois' most beautiful destinations. Starved Rock was designated as Illinois' second state park in 1911. The park's 18 canyons feature vertical walls of moss-covered St.Peter Sandstone formed by glacial meltwater that slice dramatically through tree-covered sandstone bluffs. More than 13 miles of trails allow access to rain fed waterfalls, sandstone overhangs, and spectacular overlooks. Lush vegetation such as white and red oak, maple, hickory, white pine, eastern red and northern white cedar support abundant wildlife.
Recreational opportunities abound, such as hiking, camping, fishing, boating and hunting. Special events, guided tours, and park programs are scheduled throughout the year. The Starved Rock Visitor Center is open year-round, and the 1930s-era stone and log Starved Rock Lodge offers luxury lodging, cabin rooms, and fine dining. For lodge reservations, call 1-800-868-ROCK (800-868-7625) or 815-667-4211, or visit the lodge website.
This area has been home to humans as early as 8000 B.C. Hopewellian, Woodland and Mississippian Native American cultures thrived in the region. The most recent and probably the most numerous group of Native Americans to live in the region were the Illinois. Various subtribes who belonged to the Illinois Confederation occupied the area from the 16th through the early 19th centuries. The Kaskaskia people were one of those subtribes. They lived directly across from present day Starved Rock State Park in an area known as the Grand Village or La Vantum by the French.
In 1673, French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jesuit missionary, Father Jacques Marquette passed through the area on their way up the Illinois from the Mississippi River. Known as “Pere,” the French word for “Father,” Marquette returned two years later and founded the Mission of the Immaculate Conception, Illinois’ first Christian mission, at the Kaskaskia village.
The French built Fort St. Louis atop Starved Rock in the winter of 1682-83 because of its commanding strategic position above the Illinois River. Pressured from small war parties of Iroquois in the French and Indian wars, the French abandoned the fort by the early 1700s and retreated to what is now Peoria, where they established Fort Pimitoui. Fort St. Louis became a haven for traders and trappers, but by 1720 all remains of the fort had disappeared.
Starved Rock State Park derives its name from a Native American legend of injustice and retribution. Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe was slain by a Peoria brave (the peoria were a sub-tribe of the Illinois Confederation) while attending a tribal council in southern Illinois. According to the legend, during one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge his killing, a band of Illinois, under attack by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte (today's Starved Rock). The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the butte and held their ground until the hapless Illinois died of starvation- giving rise to the name Starved Rock.