Plan to be surprised and awed at the spectacular natural features found here at Starved Rock in Illinois.
Surrounded by the flat, seemingly endless fields of Illinois farm country, a totally different topography is found within the park. Starved Rock was formed thousands of years ago by the melting of glaciers releasing torrents of water. As the water rushed downstream it eroded and stripped away everything in its path except the resistant St. Peter sandstone. It is that sandstone that formed the steep rock walls and the cool dark valleys of the eighteen canyons. When conditions are right cascades of falling water spill down into these gorges, creating the waterfalls so many come here to enjoy.
WATERFALLS Although you can technically see waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons, some of the most scenic waterfalls are found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall.
ICEFALLS Winter brings a whole new life to the canyons. The freezing and melting that happens during this time of year creates amazing ice sculptures in the canyons. Make sure you come back in the winter to see an icefall – they are spectacular!
600 million years ago Northern Illinois was part of a broad upland that was undergoing extensive erosion. The erosion wore the land down to near sea level. Erosion that forms a near sea level surface is called a peneplain. This peneplain was submerged several times by sea water and several layers of sediment were laid on the surface. Starved Rock State Park was once covered with 3000-5000 feet of glacial ice on and off over a course of 700,000 years. Glacial ice can move forwards never backwards. When a glacier is said to be retreating, it is actually melting faster than it is moving forward. As glacial ice can only move forward, it picks up rocks and carries them in the ice. When the ice melts, these rock particles are dropped at the point of melting. All dropped rock material is called drift. Drift found at the point of melting is called till. Till is unsorted glacial drift. When the glacier is stagnant, the drift accumulates into a pile called an end moraine. After the glacier has retreated, it leaves a range of irregular hills which are the end moraine. The melt waters of the glacier were so great that they would accumulate behind the moraines and form vast lakes. The streams that drain these lakes were gigantic compared to today’s streams. The Illinois Valley was formed by one of these streams. 15,000 years ago during the Wisconsinan Glacial Age, the glacial meltwater of a large lake overtopped the Marseilles Moraine and formed Lake Ottawa behind the Farm Ridge Moraine that ran north to south along what we call Starved Rock State Park today. This lake drained when it overtopped the Farm Ridge Moraine cutting a channel that became the Illinois River. Repeated meltwater floods of the Kankakee Torrent poured through the channels cut through the Marseilles and Farm Ridge Moraines establishing the drainage for the Illinois, Fox, and Vermillion Rivers. This repeated drainage also cut the outcrops , overlooks, and 18 canyons that you see today.
And here are a few great resources for some great hikes!!
White Pines Forest State Park is an Illinois state park in Ogle County, Illinois, which is a 385 acre park that contains the southernmost remaining stand of native white pine trees in the state of Illinois designated an Illinois Nature preserve in 2001. The park contains two freshwater streams, dolomite rock formations and a variety of activities generally associated with Illinois state parks. Among the park’s most distinctive and well known features are the vehicular river crossings. At three places, crossing Pine Creek, fords were constructed instead of bridges. The fords offer visitors a chance to actually drive through the creek, though high water frequently closes the crossings. Hikers are relegated to pedestrian bridges or stepping stones in the creek to cross the stream. Floods are frequent enough on Pine Creek, a large watershed to the north of the park, that there is an emergency exit from the campground. When high water closes the fords, the campground is cut off and the emergency exit is the only way out. The banks of Pine Creek and Spring Creek are lined with large rock and cliff formations that provide habitat to plants ranging from large trees to moss to hanging vines. The forest undergrowth provides small mammal habitats and among the mammals that can be seen include red squirrels, raccoons, deer and chipmunks. The creeks are populated with smallmouth bass, rock bass, channel catfish and , when they are stocked by the IDNR, rainbow trout. The park is Illinois’ third oldest and has become one of the state’s most visited parks hosting over 350,000 visitors each year. During the warmer months picknicking, camping, lodging, hiking and fishing are available. The lodge and cabins are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Sheridan is a residential neighborhood located within the cities of Highwood, Lake Forest and Highland Park, Illinois. It was originally established as Fort Sheridan, an Army post named after the Civil War cavalry general Philip Sheridan to honor his services to Chicago. There is a forest preserve that is operated by Lake County Forest Preserves which includes 250 acres of the former fort. The preserve has roughly 4.5 miles of hiking trail, 3.7 miles of trail for cross country skiing and 1.3 miles of trail for biking. The preserve also includes 0.75 miles of shoreline property alongside Lake Michigan. Throughout the preserve there are educational exhibits and viewing stations along the trails. In 1984 parts of Fort Sheridan were designated a National Historic Landmark District by the National Park Service who stated that the site “possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.” The historic districts includes 230 acres of land and buildings which include officers’ quarters, barracks, stables, a drill hall, water tower and many other institutional buildings. Also there is the 54 acre parade ground which was preserved as open space. (wiki)
Think there is not much wilderness left in the United States…think again. And while much of it is in such states as California, Arizona, Washington and Alaska, we have a gem right here in the Midwest – Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota!
Bordering the Arrowhead Region of the Canadian Board, the combined region of the BWCAW, Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, and Ontario’s Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks make up a large area of contiguous wilderness lakes and forests called the “Quetico-Superior country”, or simply the Boundary Waters. Lake Superior lies to the south and east of the Boundary Waters.
190,000 acres, nearly 20% of the BWCAW’s total area is water. Within the borders of the area are over 1,100 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams. Much of the other 80% of the area is forest. The BWCAW contains the largest remaining area of uncut forest in the eastern portion of the United States.
The Boundary Waters area is within the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province (commonly called the “North Woods”), a transitional zone between the boreal forest to the north and the temperate hardwood forest to the south that contains characteristics of each. Trees found within the wilderness area include conifers such as red pine, eastern white pine, birch, ash and even raspberries can be found in cleared areas.
The BWCAW contains a variety of hiking trails. Shorter hikes include the trail to Eagle Mountain (7 miles) Loop trails include the Pow Wow Trail, the Snowbank Trail, and the Sioux-Hustler Trail. The Border Route Trail and Kekekabic Trail are the two longest trails running through the BWCAW. The Border Route Trail runs east-west for over 65 miles through the eastern BWCAW, beginning at the northern end of the Superior Hiking Trail and following ridges and cliffs west until it connects with the Kekekabic Trail. The Kekekabic Trail continues for another 41 miles (66 km), beginning near the Gunflint Trail and passing through the center of the BWCAW before exiting it near Snowbank Lake. Both the Border Route and the Kekekabic Trail are part of the longer North Country National Scenic Trail.
Junction of the Eagle Mountain and Brule Lake Trails
Fort Defiance State Park is a 191 acre park located in Emmet County and sits at an elevation of 1,453 feet. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the park was opened in 1930 and is open year-round for picknicking, hiking and camping. Fort Defiance State Park is named for the former Fort Defiance which was built to protect a gristmil and sawmill during the Dakota War of 1862. A lodge built to resemble a frontier army outpost is available to rent to large groups for meetings and reunions. There is a picnic pavillion that is open to all visitors on a first come first served basis. The park has a rustic camping area with sixteen camping sites. The trails of the park are open to hiking, horseback riding and cross country skiing. Two of the trails, White Tail Ridge Trail and Spring Trail have recently undergone extensive improvements. The work was completed by students from the Iowa Lakes Community College environmental studies program which included covering the trails with wood chips to make the trails more “hiker friendly.” White Tail Ridge Trail passes through a wooded area where visitors may encounter some white-tailed deer. The Spring Trails passes through a patch of prairie. (wiki)
The Hartman Reserve Nature Center is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa and is approximately 309 acres large. It is the largest undisturbed wooded area in Black Hawk County, Iowa and is home to three distinct habitats including wetland, forest and prairie. The reserve is dedicated to teaching youth about nature through hands on experiences and preservation. Hartman Reserve was named after John C. Hartman who was the editor for the Waterloo Daily Courier who also was a nature enthusiast and amateur archaeologist. When the YMCA could not raise the money to buy the property, Hartman donated a sizable amount towards the purchase which was enough to have the property bear his name. Hartman Reserve is home to many trails which include paved, unpaved and water trails. There are over 6 miles worth of walking trails with the most notorious of these trails being the American Discovery Trail. All of the water trails lead into the Cedar River, the George With Memorial State Park and the many lakes on the reserve. The walking trails are dispersed throughout the reserve with varying levels of difficulty. During the Winter, snowshoe trails are available that replace the regular walking trails that can be used anyday between sunrise and sunset. The Hartman Reserve trail connects to the larger and more well known American Discovery Trail which is a system of recreational trails and roads that collectively form a coast-to-coast hiking and biking trail across the mid-tier of the United States. Horses can also be riddenon most of this trail which starts on the Delmarva Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and ends on the northern California coast on the Pacific Ocean making it a total length of 6,804 miles long.
“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become park of the silence” – Robert Lund
A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago. A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago.
The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late 18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare The study of birds and natural history in general became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era, often associated with collection, eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.
Bird watching will get your children to go outside. …
Bird watching allows for introspection and contemplation. …
Bird watching can improve cardiovascular health. …
Bird watching gives you an excuse to travel. …
Bird watching builds a sense of community. …
Bird watching quickens reflexes.
“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes” – Charles Lindbergh
Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson. Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.
Dedicated in 1919, Backbone State park is Iowa’s oldest state park. It is named for a narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River originally known as the Devil’s Backbone. It is approximately three miles long and was built back in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps who constructed a majority of the trails and buildings which make up the park. There are three distinct areas to the park: Area A is called the Cabin-Bathing Area; Area B is the Picknicking, Hiking and Camping Area; and Area C is Richmond Springs. * Area A is located at the southern end of the park and runs around the 125 acre Backbone Lake on the Makoqueta River. Its historic buildings and structures include 17 cabins, pump house, two sets of trail steps, soil erosion dams, six parking areas, paved road, the site of CCC Camp 1756, bathhouse, boathouse, a wall, the beach, a sundial and bench, dam, and the sand filter bed. The lake was created by the dam and spillways back in 1933. * Area B is located near the center of the park and its historic buildings and structures include a picnic/shelter concession, two more picnic shelters, the site of CCC Camp 781, the east entrance entryways and gate, two trailside benches, six parking lots, a vehicle bridge, trail steps and the Backbone trail. * Area C, Richmond Springs is located on the north end of the park and its historic structures include the springs which are a natural feature enclosed by the CCC back in June of 1934. It created a new channel from the area to prevent overflow into the springs. Twenty-one miles of multi-use trails support year-round recreational activities including hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in winter. The lake is noted for its swimming, boating and fishing. Backbone Creek is known to support a good stock of Rainbow and Brown Trout and is regularly stocked by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Campsites and rental cabins are available along with shower buildings and a playground for the children. Local wildlife such as fox, turkey and deer can be seen in the park and surrounding area and the Backbone State Forest is immediately adjacent to the park. The forest consists of 186 acres of pine forest. (wiki)
Which U.S. state contains the country’s longest recreational rail trail? It is the state of Missouri and the trail’s name is the Katy Trail which is approximately 240 miles long and runs along the northern bank of the Missouri River in the right-of-way of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Open year-round from sunrise to sunset it serves hikers, joggers and cyclists on it’s hard, flat surface comprised mostly of crushed limestone (aka: limestone pug.) The nickname “Katy” comes from the phonetic pronunciation of “KT” which is a short form of the railroad’s abbreviated name, MKT. Sections of the Katy are also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the American Discovery Trail.’ The Katy Trail currently begins in the town of Machens(mile marker 27) on the Missouri River and runs along the northern bank for most of the trail’s length. The next major city along the trail is Jefferson City, the state capital. At mile-marker 169.9 (McBaine) the trail intersects the MKT Trail which leads into downtown Columbia, the largest city along the trail.The Katy then deviates from its original path and crosses the Missouri River at Boonville on the Boonslick Bridge instead of the original MKT Bridge. From here the trail runs to its terminus in Clinton at mile-marker 264.6 Plans are underway to add another 144-mile unused section of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific to Rock Island Trail State Park, which with the Katy would create a 450-mile trail network. The extension would run from Windsor to Beaufort, near Washington. Preliminary plans are to then extend the trail into Washington from where it could cross the Missouri River to connect to the Katy Trail again, completing a cross-state loop. A “quad state” proposal would connect the Katy and other existing trails in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. (wiki_