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State Park Guide

Last Update: April1, 2001

1. Apple River Canyon State Park

Location: Apple River Canyon State Park is located in the Northwest corner of Illinois. If you are traveling from the south, you can take I-39 to Rockford, then US Rt.20 West to Rt. 78 North, go 6 miles to Canyon Road, take a left on Canyon Road. The Park is well signed on Rt. 20 and Rt. 78. (West of Warren) [A-4] {A-6,7}
Apple River Canyon State Park consists of 297-acres in the hilly northwest part of Illinois in Jo Daviess County near the Wisconsin border. This scenic canyon area was formed by the action of the winding waters of Apple River. Limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams and wildlife characterize this area which was once a part of a vast sea bottom that stretched from the Alleghenies to the Rockies.
Five trails - Pine Ridge, Tower Rock, River Route, Sunset and Primrose Trail - wind through the woods for several miles within the park.
Camping: In addition to primitive sites, the park offers trailer sites with a sanitary station. Camping permits must be obtained from the park staff. A youth group camping area is also available. Youth groups are required to have reservations.
Directions: Apple River Canyon State Park is located 2 ½ hours west of Chicago. Take I-90 West to US Rt. 20 located by Rockford. Take US Rt. 20 West for approximately 50 miles to Rt. 78 North. Turn right onto Rt. 78, go 6 miles to Canyon Road. Take a left on Canyon Road. The park is well signed on Rt. 20 and Rt. 78. Apple River Canyon State Park is located in the Northwest corner of Illinois. If you are traveling from the south, you can take I-39 to Rockford, then US Rt.20 West to Rt. 78 North, go 6 miles to Canyon Road, take a left on Canyon Road. The Park is well signed on Rt. 20 and Rt. 78.

3. Castle Rock State Park
Location: On IL Hwy 2, 4 miles south of Oregon, IL., 12 miles north of Dixon, IL.  [B,C-6]{B,C-8,9}
The park is very representative of the Rock River Hills area with rock formations, ravines, and unique northern plant associations. A sandstone bluff, adjacent to the river, has given the park its name.
There are six miles of marked hiking trails developed at this time.  These trails offer the opportunity to view woodland animals and birds that inhabit the park. The trails' scenic views also offer many chances for the photographers to sharpen their skills. More trails are planned with the park's development. 
Camping: Castle Rock does not have a campground except for a primitive canoe camping area. Access to the area is by canoe or boat only.  Camping available at nearby Lowden and White Pines Forest State Parks.
Directions: Castle Rock State Park is located on IL Hwy 2, 4 miles south of Oregon, IL., 12 miles north of Dixon, IL. If traveling east from the Chicago area, take I-90 to Rockford. At Rockford take I-39 south 20 miles to IL Hwy 64. At Exit 104, turn right at Oregon exit, take Hwy 64 west to Oregon. Turn south on IL Hwy 2 for 4 miles to park. If traveling west on I-88, take Exit 97 at I-39 at Rochelle. Take I-39 north 7 miles to Hwy 64. Go west on Hwy 64 for 15 miles to Oregon. Take IL Hwy 2 south to the park. If traveling north on IL Hwy 26 south of Dixon, take Hwy 26 to Dixon. In Dixon, take IL Hwy 2 north 12 miles to the park. If traveling east on I-88 west of Dixon, take the Dixon exit for IL Hwy 26 north. In Dixon, take IL Hwy 2 north 12 miles to the park.

4. Chain O' Lakes State Park

Location: The park is 60 miles northwest of Chicago, 20 miles west of Lake Michigan and only 4 miles south of the Illinois/Wisconsin border.( near Grass Lake)  [A-9] {A-12}
Located in the heart of Illinois' largest concentration of natural lakes, Chain O Lakes State Park is a water oriented recreation area with outstanding opportunities for boaters, anglers and skiers. The park borders three natural lakes - Grass, Marie and Nippersink - and the Fox River that connects the other seven lakes (Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead) that make up the Chain. In addition, the park contains a 44-acre lake within its boundaries. The 2,793 acre state park and adjoining 3,230 acre conservation area are located in the northeastern corner of Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline on the chain, Chain O Lakes State Park is the heart of water wonderland.
Hiking:  Chain O Lakes has four trail systems. The Nature's Way hiking trail starts at Oak Grove Picnic Area and is 2½ miles in length.  The Pike Marsh North Picnic Area has a trail especially designed for disabled users that is ¼ mile long. The park also contains an equestrian trail with three loops and a total length of 8 miles. Visitors can bring in their own horses for enjoyment on the trail. A parking lot for horse trailers with access to the equestrian trails is located near the park entrance. A biking/hiking trail, 5 miles in length can be accessed at any picnic area between the concession stand and the park office. Bike rentals are available. In the winter all trails can be used by cross-country skiers with the park office doubling as a warming house on weekends with 3" of snow; hours are 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Camping: The park's Class A campgrounds Honey Suckle Hollow with 106 sites and Fox Den with 44 sites.  Chain O Lakes three Class B campgrounds with 87 sites have water, vault toilets and access to showers.There is one youth group camp area accommodating up to 150 youths, cost $1 per person per night minimum $10 charge per night. Advanced reservations are required for youth camping.

7. Illinois Beach State Park

Location: Along Lake Michigan at Zion Illinois [A-9] {A-12,13}
FEATURES: The 4,160-acre park, consisting of two separate areas, offers ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and just appreciating nature.  Stretching leisurely for six and a half miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois, Illinois Beach State Park encompasses the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state.  A full range of recreation opportunities complement the expansive shoreline of Illinois Beach State Park.  Whether you're an active outdoor enthusiast or just interested in a quiet walk along some of the Midwest's most scenic beaches, this is the place for you!
Hiking:  From guided nature hikes to individual treks, Illinois Beach provides excellent hiking opportunities. The southern part of the park features 5 miles of trails, including a 2.2-mile loop trail with a graveled surface. In the north, Camp Logan Trail is a 1.8-mile multi-use loop that cross-country skiers also can use. Cross-country skiing is not allowed in the nature preserve.
Camping: A campground in the southern unit provides 244 Class A sites with electricity and access to showers and sanitary facilities. You must obtain a camping permit from the park staff before settling in. Reservations may be made for the summer months by contacting the park office.
Interpretive Center:
  Open year-round, the interpretive center is a popular spot to start your visit to Illinois Beach.  
  For comfortable accommodations, the 96-room Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center is the perfect place to get away for a weekend or week-long vacation.
  During the summer season, swimming is a major attraction along the sandy shorelines, and both units provide ample parking and bathhouse with showers. There are no on-duty lifeguards, so please be careful.
Directions: From the South are: I-294 north to Rt 173 east (approx 8 miles) to Sheridan Road. Make a right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road, make a left and you will be in the park. From the North are: I-94 South to Rt. 173, east on Rt.173 to Sheridan Road, right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road and make a left on Wadsworth into the Park.

8. Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park

Location: In Stephenson County just west of Route 73, on Lake Road, the park is six miles south of the
Illinois-Wisconsin state line and three miles north of Lena. [A-5]
Features: Highlighted by a 40-acre lake and all the recreational opportunities there, the park also offers nature and equestrian trails, picnic areas, and RV, tent, equestrian and youth group campgrounds and several hundred years of history.  In the first years of 1800, William Waddams built a home just west of the current park site, along a trail that was to become the principal east-west route across northern Illinois for stagecoach and early automobile traffic. A small community was established and extended east into the park site. Waddams Grove, including the original Waddam house, and the historic highway can still be seen by park visitors and adds a nice historic flavor to the area.
Hiking: Whether you enjoy hiking, horseback riding or cross-country skiing, you will find something to make your visit memorable.  Seven miles of marked trails include something for everyone. Pets are welcome to enjoy the trails with you, but should be kept on their leashes.
Camping:  More than 178 campsites, with electricity available to nearly 140, are grouped into three designated areas. Recreational vehicles, tent campers, equestrians and youth groups will find most everything they need at these sites. The facilities considered Class A include graveled pads, conveniently-located water hydrants, a dumping station, and a shower building with flush toilets. Class B facilities offer vehicular access and the use of the shower building.  The camping areas are open from May 1 to October 31, and most are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A few sites, however, may be reserved in advance beginning January 2 each year. Groups of more than 25 persons and youth groups must obtain advanced permission to use the camping facilities.
Swimming:  A small beach particularly suited to children is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  There are no lifeguards in attendance, so swimming is at your own risk, and alcohol is strictly prohibited.
Directions: FROM THE CHICAGO AREA: Take I-90 west to Rte 20 west at Rockford. Travel on Rte 20 west to IL 73 north (Approximately 60 miles). Turn right onto IL 73 and go north 2 miles into the town of Lena. Turn left on Lena Street. Proceed .4 mile, turn right onto Lake Road and go approximately 3 miles to Park entrance. FROM THE SOUTH: Take I-39 to Rte 20 west of Rockford. Travel on Rte 20 west to IL 73 north (approximately 58 miles). Turn right onto IL 73 north, go 2 miles into the town of Lena. Turn left onto Lena Street. Proceed two blocks, turn right onto Lake Road and go approximately 3 miles to Park entrance. FROM THE WEST: Travel on Rte 20 east to IL 73 north. Turn left onto IL 73 north and to 2 miles into the town of Lena. Turn left onto Lena Street. Proceed .4 mile, turn right onto Lake Road and go approximately 3 miles to Park entrance. FROM THE NORTH: Take WI 69 south which will turn into IL 26 south at the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Take this to the town of Orangeville. Turn right in Orangeville on McConnell Road. Cross IL 73. The road then turns into Lake Road. Go on Lake Road to Park entrance.

10. Lowden State Park

Location: If traveling north or south on I-39, take exit #104 on Rt 64 west 16 miles to Oregon, take River Rd. right two miles to Park. (Along the Rock River is just north of Oregon.)[C-6] {B,C-8,9}
Features:  Just north of Oregon, the bluffs are graced with a majestic image of an American Indian gazing over the Rock River Valley. This is no ordinary statue. It is a 50 foot, concrete-reinforced wonder that is awe-inspiring. A tribute to all Native Americans, but more commonly associated with Chief Black Hawk, the statue was designed by sculptor Lorado Taft.  You can enjoy many wonderful views of the Rock River from the park, but the best view of the statue is from Illinois Route 2.
Hiking: Almost four miles of good foot trails lead visitors through the natural wonders and beauty of the park.
Camping:  Individual and group camping sites include limited electricity, a shower building, and a sanitary dumping station for trailers.  During the summer, a refreshment stand provides cool drinks and snacks. Please contact park staff upon arrival for a camping permit.
Directions:Lowden Memorial State Park can be reached from I-39 and I-88. If traveling north or south on I-39, exit #104 on Rt 64 west 16 miles to Oregon, take River Rd. right two miles to Park. If traveling west on I-88 , exit on to I-39 north five miles to Exit #104, Rt 64 west 16 miles to Oregon. Right on River Rd two miles to Park. If traveling east on I-88, exit at Dixon on Rt #26 north to Rt 2 in Dixon. Take Rt 2 north 18 miles to Oregon. Take Rt #64 in Oregon east across Rock River. Left on River Rd two miles to Park. If traveling south on Rt 2 to Oregon, left on Rt 64 across Rock River. Left on River Rd two miles to Park.

11. Mississippi Palisades State Park

Location: Approximately 50 miles north of Rock Island / Moline on Rt 84.  Located three miles north of Savanna in Carroll County [B-4] {B-6,7}
Features:  Palisades is the word used to describe a line of lofty, steep cliffs usually seen along a river, and Mississippi Palisades handsomely lives up to its name. Caves are evident as are dangerous sink holes-limestone caves that go straight down. Erosion has carved intriguing rock formations, including Indian Head, with its aquiline characteristics, and Twin Sisters, a pair of humanoid figures on the bluff tops.
Hiking: The gateway to seeing the park’s impressive assortment of plant and animal life is its rugged 13-mile trail system. The five trails in the northern part of the park are generally wider and less strenuous than the five in the south, which are narrow and extremely close to the bluff. The southern trails also are very hazardous when wet.  The North System includes High Point Trail at 3.5 miles and Aspen at 1.9 miles. Sentinel Trail, at 1.2 miles including spurs, is the South System’s longest hike, but it and other southern loops aren’t for the tenderfoot. Ozzie’s Point, Louis’ Point and Lookout Point, four developed overlooks accessible by short walks, offer a surfaced trail leading to an overlook. Oak Point offers a trail surface suitable for the physically challenged.
Camping:  With 241 Class A and B trailer sites in both shaded and open areas, Mississippi Palisades is in demand by campers. Because of its popularity, in fact, all camping is on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations are not accepted. Electrical hookups are available at 105 sites. Showers and flush toilets are situated in three buildings and are in operation from May 1 until Oct 31. Two youth camping areas are also available. These may be reserved from June 1 through October 31. 
Directions:From I-90, exit at US Rt. 20 west (Galena/Freeport exit). From Rt. 20, turn south on Rt. 84. The park is located 18 miles from Rt. 20. From I-80, exit on Rt. 84 and travel north approximately 50 miles to reach the park which is located three miles north of Savanna.

12. Moraine Hills State Park

Location: In the northeast corner of Illinois, the park is 3 miles south of McHenry. McHenry Dam, on the Fox River, is on the park's western border. Roughly half of the park's 1,690 acres is composed of wetlands and lakes.  [A-8] {A-11,12}
Features: Roughly half of the park's 1,690 acres is composed of wetlands and lakes.  Moraine Hills derives its name from a geologic formation known as a moraine, which is an accumulation of boulders, stones
and other debris deposited by a glacier. As glacial ice melted here following the Wisconsin glaciation period, it left gravel-rich deposits called kames that make up the park's wooded hills and ridges.
Hiking, Biking:  More than 10 miles of trails make Moraine Hills popular for hikers, skiers and cyclists, and provide one of the park's main recreation features. Three trails, surfaced with crushed limestone, wind their way through the park and offer you exceptional scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities. Enjoy the 2-mile Fox River Trail, the 3.2-mile Leatherleaf Bog Trail, and the 3.7-mile Lake Defiance Trail. To keep you on track, trails are color coded and one way.
Directions: From the North: IL Rt. 12 south to Rt. 176, West on Rt.176 to River Road, North on River Road approx. 2 miles to entrance From the South: IL Rt. 12 north to Rt. 176, West on Rt. 176 to River Road, North on River Road approx. 2 miles to entrance From the East: Rt. 176 to River Road, North on River Road approx. 2 miles to entrance From the West: IL Rt. 176 West to River Road, North on River Road approx. 2 miles to entrance


13. Morrison-Rockwood State Park

Location: (north of Morrison in Whiteside County. )[C-5] {C-7}
Features: A trip to picturesque Morrison-Rockwood State Park offers many memorable experiences. A large sign in the shape of Illinois, fashioned from angle iron by a blacksmith, greets visitors at the entrance. Once inside, choose from a variety of recreational opportunities. Beautiful Lake Carlton, a stream-fed reservoir, features an abundance of ducks and geese, and is considered a prime location for fishing. Or, plan a family outing at the Lakeview picnic area, or just do some bird watching among the hickory, ash, oak and walnut trees.
Hiking:  A three and one-half mile nature trail is marked for hikers. It offers many scenic views of the lake as it winds through the park. This trail is particularly beautiful in the spring when wildflowers are in bloom.
Camping:  Camping at Morrison-Rockwood State Park is sure to delight all who love the out-of-doors. Ninety-two camping sites are available in heavily wooded areas of the park. Each site has electricity, grill and a table. A shower building with flush toilets is available from May 1st through October 31.
Directions: From Rock Island / Moline take I-88 northeast for approximately 28 miles to exit 26.  Go north on Il. route 78 (miles) through Morrison.  Continue on Route 78,  follow the signs to Damen Road. Take it to Crosby Road about 2 miles. Turn left on Crosby Road, again following the signs, to our entrance in about 1.5 miles. From Chicago by taking the East-West Tollway (I-88) west to IL Rte 78. Go north on Rte 78 thru Morrison and follow the signs. On IL Rte 78 follow the signs to Damen Road. Take it to Crosby Road about 2 miles. Turn left on Crosby Road, again following the signs, to our entrance in about 1.5 miles..

14. Prophetstown State Park

Location: Prophetstown State Park, on the northeast edge of the city along the south bank of the Rock River in Whiteside County. {C,D-7}
Features: Prophetstown State Park is a predominantly wooded area located along the south bank of the Rock River. Its terrain is relatively flat and lies within the flood plain of the river. Plant life is characteristic of bottom ground, offering a variety of species. Some of the predominant trees are maple, cottonwood, oak, walnut and locust. Animal species that are often seen are squirrels, rabbits, ducks, muskrats, raccoons and occasionally deer. Coon Creek flows through the park and feeds into the Rock River, creating a natural area for fish. Once the site of an American Indian village, the 53-acre park derives its name from the Native American prophet Wa-bo-kie-shiek.
Hiking: Wa-bo-kie-shiek nature trail follows along the edge of Coon Creek for approximately 1/3 of a mile. It offers access for anglers while also providing a scenic walk for hikers.
Camping: An open, well-shaded area is available for both tent and trailer camping. There are electrical outlets and a dump station available for trailers. Water hydrants and privy toilets are located throughout the area. There is also a shower building with flush toilets.
Swimming: The is no swimming in the park, but about four blocks away, many park visitors enjoy swimming in the Prophetstown Park District indoor pool.
Directions: Prophetstown State Park can be reached by I-80 or I-88 and exiting onto IL Rt. 78 then heading south from I-88 or north from I-80. After reaching Prophetstown, watch for directional signs. The park is located on the south side of the Rock River within the city limits of Prophetstown.

15. Rock Cut State Park
Location: Rock Cut State Park is just north of Rockford, Illinois at the junction of I-90 and hwy 173. [B-7] {A-9,10}
Features:  Chiseled out of the state’s far northern region is Rock Cut State Park in Winnebego County. Nearby are other "rocky" landmarks - the mighty Rock River and the place where wagons once forded it, Rockford. It’s an area of rolling plains, interesting history and recreational variety. Two lakes set off the park’s 3,092 acres. Pierce Lake, with 162 acres, is a retreat for people wanting to fish, ice fish or ice skate. A second 50-acre Olson Lake is especially for swimmers. Rounding out the park’s recreational options are camping, hiking, horseback trails, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Whatever the season, you can be sure there’s quite a bit of activity going on at Rock Cut State Park.
Hiking:  An elaborate multi-use trail system puts Rock Cut high on the list of hikers and cross-country skiers who have 15 miles of trails to enjoy. The Rock Cut trail around Pierce Lake is 4.25 miles long, with separate interpretive trails putting you a little closer to nature. All trails are well-marked and maintained, and brochures with trail maps are available at the park office or the main concession stand.

Rock Cut State Park offers a multi use cross country ski, mountain bike, hiking trail system. It is indicated on the park brochure map with the symbols B.S.H. This trail is approximately nine miles in length and offers a variety of challenges from easy to difficult. Trails are groomed for both traditional skiing and skating, when adequate snowfall and weather conditions are conducive. Camping:  For those who want to include an overnight stay in their visit to Rock Cut, the park offers 212 Class A sites and 60 Class B sites. Open year round, the campgrounds provide water, electricity, sanitary dump stations, showers, toilets, a boat launch and playground equipment. Only electricity and pit toilets are available in the winter season. Groups of more than 25 persons need advance permission from the site superintendent before they can enter the park.  Winter camping is available, but on a limited basis.
Directions: Take I-39 north to Rockford, then take I-90 West. Take Riverside Blvd Exit (Third Exit from Rockford). Follow signs off Tollway as follows: Riverside Blvd. - turn Left (West) to Perryville Road. North to Harlem Road and turn left (West) to Forest Hills Road. Go north on Hwy 173 and turn right (East) to Park entrance. (north east of Rockford )

16. Shabbona Lake State Park

Location: Southwest of De Kalb on US 30.  [C-7] {C,D-10}
Just miles west of Chicago, off U.S. 30, urban sprawl gives way to 1,550 acres of rolling prairie and features a 318.8 acre man-made fishing lake. Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area provides a convenient, natural haven from the hustle and bustle of daily life.  A unique mix of grass-covered meadows, upland mesic woods, bottomland woods, and a native, undisturbed fen, make this an ideal location for natural relaxation and outdoor activity.
Just over eight miles of scenic hiking and cross-country skiing trails weave through the wooded areas of the park. A trail brochure is available at the office. A specially developed cassette tape can guide you along on the "Touch the Earth" trail. The tape and a special brochure is available at the park office.)
Camping:  The campground has 150 Class A sites with electricity, vehicle access, a sanitary dump station and a shower building with flush toilets. All facilities are handicapped accessible. Reservations are accepted for certain sites.  One family per campsite or four unrelated adults with up to two tents are allowed. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. Campgrounds may be closed during the spring thaw due to road conditions.
Camp Cabins:  A camp cabin was added to the camping facilities in 1998. The cabin has no water or toilet facilities but has two rooms and will accomodate a maximum of 6 people. There is electric baseboard heat so it can be used year-round. The cabin can be reserved for $40. This includes a $5 reservation fee and the first night's camping fee of $35.

Visitors from the Southwest or Northwest, take I-39 to US 30 (exit 87). Directional signs are on the exit ramps. Take US 30 east 7 miles to Shabbona. The park entrance is on Preserve Road, approximately ½ mile south of Shabbona. Signs in Shabbona will direct you to the park.

19. White Pines Forest State Park

Location: In the heart of Rock River Valley, this charming 385-acre park is the south boundary of the old Chicago-Iowa Trail.  History tells us that this was for years the principal route east and west across the northern part of the state. [C-6] {B,C-8}
Today the park provides the perfect recipe for family get-aways! There are plenty of outdoor recreation activities, such as hiking, fishing, camping, bicycling and picnicking to name just a few. Add lots of serene, picturesque beauty. Blend in some modern lodge facilities amidst a beautiful forest.
Whether you choose an easy walking trail or a more difficult path, six of the seven marked trails are less than a mile long and provide ample opportunity to see the beautiful vine-covered limestone bluffs, blossoming spring flowers and whispering pines.
Looking to spend a night under the stars? White Pines State Park has 106 Class B/S campsites, with vehicular access, as well as tent and trailer sites (no electrical hookups). In addition, there is a youth group campground. Because of the nature of the terrain in this area, soft ground and high water may sometimes close campgrounds. It's a good idea to check ahead with the site superintendent's office to be sure the facilities are open.
White Pines Inn, originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, has undergone an extensive renovation.  The lodge has 13 one-room guest cabins and 3 cabins with 4 rooms for a total of 25 guest rooms. Each cabin sleeps four people and is complete with shower, one double bed, and two twin beds. All cabins are air-conditioned and heated, and have telephones and televisions. 
From the north or south, take I-39 to exit 104 (Route 64 Oregon exit). take Route 64 west to Oregon (12 miles). You will turn left at Route 2 and continue to Pines Road. Turn right on Pines Road and go about 8 miles to the park entrance.