This will be an all day event. Hiking at Matthiessen, picnic lunch and hike part of Starved Rock. Miles: 10-15 Time: 5-6 hours including lunch and breaks. Bring your lunch it can be left in your car and after the first part of our hike we can have a picnic lunch then head over to Illinois Canyon in Starved Rock. Pets are welcome but must be on a leash. These trails can be muddy and very wet. I suggest a change of clothes.
There will be 2 other Meetup groups hiking with us for a total of 75 people. Please be on time we will not wait for late comers. I am posting 2 maps of the hiking routs we will be doing so you can find us. Cell phones hardly work in the canyons.
Starved Rock Hike
The 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
I have hiked Matthiessen many times and in many ways I like it better than Starved Rock. The lower trails can be very wet and muddy.
Canyons, streams, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, approximately 4 miles south of Utica and 3 miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for a special outing.
Matthiessen State Park was named for Frederick William Matthiessen, a prominent industrialist and philanthropist from LaSalle. He originally purchased the land near the end of the 19th century and operated it as a privately owned park for many years. Mr. Matthiessen employed about 50 people to construct trails, bridges, stairways and check dams. The area was originally referred to as “Deer Park,” in reference to the large deer population. The original 176-acre park consisted primarily of a long, narrow canyon with a small stream flowing through it. At that time these formations were called “dells,” a name that has stayed with the park. After Matthiessen’s death, the park was donated to the state of Illinois, which opened it as a public park. In 1943, the state renamed the park in honor of Matthiessen. Since then, the park has grown to 1,938 acres and includes much of the significant natural areas along the main dell, some former prairie land, and some forest land south of the original park.
The many unusual and beautiful rock formations make a trip to Matthiessen State Park an educational as well as a fun experience. Exposed sandstone can be seen throughout. The main canyon, consisting of the Upper and Lower Dells, provides an unusual and interesting walking tour. The Upper Dell begins at Deer Park Lake and continues to Cascade Falls, where the canyon drops 45 feet and the Lower Dell begins. The canyon, formed by water erosion, is approximately 1 mile long, from Deer Park Lake to the Vermilion River. Visitors may observe ground water seeping out along the sandstone of the canyon walls. Minerals carried in solution in the ground water contribute to the beautiful coloring of the rocks.
Several mineral springs, with the park were popular salt lick spots for the large deer population.
Flora and Fauna
Visitors will delight at the abundance of plant and animal life. The park is alive with common and uncommon species of flora and fauna. The canyon provides a perfect habitat for many mosses and liverworts which thrive on the damp, shady walls. Ferns also grow in the rich soil. Other vegetation in the canyon interior is limited to the simpler or lower orders of plant life, because most plants cannot root on the steep rock walls. Cliff swallows and rock doves may be seen perching on the canyon walls, while frogs, toads and salamanders seek out the cool, moist canyon floors.
Along the dry, sandy bluff tops near the canyon edge, black oak, red cedar and white oak grow in abundance. White pines and white cedar also are found here, carried south by the glaciers of long ago. Shrubs common to this area include serviceberry and northern honeysuckle. Scarlet tanagers and cedar waxwings can be seen feeding on the berries of these shrubs. Holes made by yellow-bellied sapsuckers can be found on the cedar trees, as these birds feed on the sap and small insects located there. In the spring, beautiful magenta-colored blossoms erupt on the shooting star plants and the bright orange of the columbine delights the eye. By summertime, a rainbow of color emerges with the yellow partridge pea, violet spiked lead plants and purple square-stemmed mint plants.
Farther back from the bluffs, bur oak and hickory grow. At the foot of these trees grow American witch hazel, black huckleberry and bracken fern. Nuthatches and chickadees can be seen feeding on the nuts, seeds and insects here.
Jack-in-the-pulpits, pastel-colored hepatica and delicate pink spring beauties blossom in the shaded forest soil during the spring. In the area where the sun breaks through the trees, black-eyed Susans and pink, spiked tick-trefoils bloom through the summer. Raccoons and flying squirrels spend hours among the trees searching for and gathering berries and nuts.
Along the forest edges, bright blue indigo buntings fly among the wild crabapple and plum trees. Cottontail rabbits scamper through the bluestem and Indian grasses. Red-tailed hawks soar overhead searching for field mice. Three-leaved poison ivy plants are found in all areas of the park, growing both as a vine and as an individual woody plant. Its greenish-white berries are a prime source of food for many birds.