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Park Rules and Regulations

Fines begin at $195.

  • Camping is prohibited outside of the state campground.

  • Rock climbing, rappelling, and scaling the sandstone features including the canyon walls are prohibited.

  • Ground fires outside of the state campground are prohibited.

  • Bicycles, scooters, skates, skateboards, and similar items are not permitted on the trails at the Dells area.  Bikes are permitted on marked trails at the Matthiessen Vermillion River Area. 

  • Hiking after dark is not allowed. 

  • Alcohol and any intoxicating substances are prohibited on all trails and the campground.

  • Drones are prohibited in all areas of the park.

  • Swimming in the Vermillion River, canyon creeks, canyon pools, or waterfalls is prohibited.

  • Trampling sunflowers or picking sunflowers or any wildflower, plant, fern, or parts of a tree are prohibited in a state park.  

  • Removal of any historical artifact, rock, plant, or animal from the park is prohibited.

  • Metal detecting is prohibited. 

  • Picnicking outside of the designated picnic area is prohibited.  Please practice Leave No Trace by packing out all of the items that you take with you including snack bags, candy wrappers, clothing, wipes, diapers, and beverage containers!!

Activity Permits

(Required - Any group of 20 or more people)

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Land Management requires any group of 20 or more persons who use Department facilities to have advance written permission from the Site Superintendent. Regardless of group size, the Department may require additional liability coverage to be provided through an Activity PermitRelease of Liability can be used if your organization, family, or school does not have liability insurance. Site managers may deny the request if the facilities are not adequate to handle the size of the group if public health or safety might be compromised, if the liability risk to the Department is too great, or if there would be adverse impacts on natural resources at the site.

Activity Permits are to be used whenever a non-traditional use of any facility is requested (for example - a family reunion in the picnic area) and/or any activity that might increase potential liability to the Department (for example - search and rescue teams practicing on rock faces). These requests need to be made at least 21 days in advance of the activity and forwarded to the Regional Office for processing.

Minors 18 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult chaperone (1 adult chaperone for every group of 15 or fewer minors during school field trips, organized group outings, and family gatherings).  Please visit the State of Illinois Administrative Rules here

Permit to Sell is needed if food or goods are sold, fees are charged, or when money changes hands in any manner among the organizers, spectators, and/or participants.

Guidelines for Completing Activity Permits

1.     Complete the Activity Permit at least 2-3 weeks before the scheduled visit.  Site Superintendent Alvin Harper.  Email to  Questions call the the park office between 9 and 4, M-F at 815-667-4726.

2.     Acquire Proof of Liability Insurance (business, school, or organization can ask their administrator or main office) or have each participant sign the Release of Liability Form ahead of time.

3.     Email, mail, or drop off the completed Activity Permit and Proof of Liability Insurance together (or, Release of Liability) to at least 2-3 weeks before the scheduled visit.
Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center
PO Box 509
Utica, IL 61373

4.     The Site Superintendent (Alvin Harper) or the Office Coordinator will respond within 2 weeks from the time the permit was handed in with an approval or denial of the group visit through email ( or phone at 1-815-667-4726.

5.     An Activity Permit Fee of $25 is due the day of the activity and can be paid in the form of cash or check to IDNR at the Starved Rock Visitor Center which is open daily from 9 to 4.



The Dells Area of the Matthiessen State Park provides a perfect setting for picnics and an afternoon of relaxation. This area has picnic tables, water fountains, and playground equipment, as well as a large parking lot and toilet facilities. An added attraction is the restored fort representative of the fortifications the French built in the Midwest during the 1600s and early 1700s. The main trail to the Cascade Falls area originates in this area. To the south, at the Vermilion River Area, additional picnic shelters, picnic tables, grills, and drinking fountains provide convenient picnic facilities. Open fires are prohibited outside of the campground area.  Cooking is not allowed along the trail system.  Visitors may bring their own grills or use the grills in place within the designated picnic areas.  Alcohol is prohibited from January 1 through May 31 in the picnic area.

NOTICE: Alcohol is prohibited on all trails.



Matthiessen State Park has 5 miles of well-marked, well-surfaced hiking trails for a relaxing walk or a vigorous hike. Large trail maps are located at all major trail intersections so visitors can choose a variety of routes. The upper area and bluff tops are easy hiking paths for the novice, but the trails into the interiors of the two dells may be difficult to negotiate, particularly during spring and early summer. Hikers must stay on marked trails, as steep cliffs and deep canyons can be dangerous. Hikers will marvel at the plant and animal life along the trails and have an unparalleled view of geological wonders as they travel through the park. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails.

Cross Country Skiing
There are 6 miles of cross-country ski trails at Matthiessen State Park for those who bring their own skis or snow shoes.  


Horseback Riding/Equestrian Camping/Mountain Bikes

The park provides 9 miles of multi-use mountain bike/ horseback riding trails for those who own their own horse or mountain bike. The trails are color-coded and marked with the yield order triangle which symbolizes that all users yield to horse riders. The trail map is at this link.

  • The horseback campground is open on May 1 (weather dependent) and closes by November 1. 
  • The horseback trails open on May 1 (weather dependent) and close after the 2nd weekend of November (closed after the first weekend in November). 
  • Dates are subject to change depending on weather and trail conditions.  
  • Horseback riders should note that trails are closed to horseback riding at least 24 hours after rainfall.  Weather can be checked by going online and typing in Oglesby, Illinois. 

An equestrian campground for horseback riders and their horses is located west of Route 178 between Route 71 and the Dells Area entrance. Alcohol is prohibited in all campgrounds.  Call 815-667-4726 to check conditions and status before coming to use these facilities.

Mountain bikes and horses are prohibited on all other trails throughout Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock State Park. 


Hunting and Fishing

For details on hunting regulations, check the online hunting information for Matthiessen, Starved Rock, Sandy Ford, and Mitchell’s Grove

Bank fishing is allowed at Matthiessen Lake located on the north side of the park off Route 71.  Please follow fishing regulations as stated in the Illinois Fishing Guided 2023.  Valid State of Illinois fishing license is required. 



A field archery range with a sight-in area and four separate targets are located in the northwestern portion of Matthiessen State Park near Deer Park Country Club just off Illinois Route 71.

A radio-controlled model airplane field is located in the Vermilion River Area. Hobbyists and visitors will enjoy flying or watching as these crafts are maneuvered around this open field area.

Canoeing and kayaking are allowed at Matthiessen Lake located on the north side of the park off Route 71.  Visitors must bring their own canoe/kayak and portage/carry it in from respective parking lots.  


Additional Regulations

  • PLEASE NOTE! It is a state offense to remove any archaeological or Native American material from any Illinois state park.
  • No camping, rappelling, or rock or ice climbing is allowed.
  • Hike only the marked trails. Unmarked areas are dangerous. Numerous people have been seriously injured or killed in this park. All users must be off of the trails by/before dark.
  • All pets must be on a leash.
  • In case of an accident or emergency CALL 911