66 Hikes Along Rt. 66 – #4 – Starved Rock

 

 

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.

The once Historic Route 66, of the most famous roads in the United States that ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and ended  in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covered a total of 2,448 miles.  It has always been iconic for roadside stops….dinners…antiquing…and many historical sites.  Although it longer exists, you can still “get your kicks” on the path it took through the United States on other highways and roads.  In this series, I will highlight the many places you can stop to explore nature along this route….focusing on spots in the Midwest.  Looking for more stops….check out this guide.

Starved Rock State Park

66 Hikes Along Route 66 – #1

Gebhard Woods State Park in Morris, Illinois 

 

Don’t let the snow and cold slow you down. Hiking at Gebhard Woods State Park is a popular activity  on this 30-acre site. Located in Morris, this picturesque park is bordered on the south by the Illinois & Michigan Canal and to the north by Nettle Creek, which gently flows along the perimeter and through the park, adding to its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. Stately old trees including walnut, oak, ash, maple, sycamore, hawthorn and cottonwood provide ample shade throughout the park. In the spring, trillium, bluebell, white trout lily, violets, wild ginger, phlox, toothwort and spring beauties are just a sample of the wildflowers that can be enjoyed by park visitors.​​​​
And Gebhard Woods is a footbridge away from the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail. This 61 mile trail on the old canal towpath is easy walking and gives access to unparalleled scenic and historic sights.  The trail is marked and has various wayside exhibits that describe canal era features encountered along the way.

Morman Pioneer National Historic Trail

A pointed bluff landmark sticks out above a flat valley with large green shrubs.

Covering Five States (IL, IA, NE, UT, WY)

Explore the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail across five states to see the 1,300-mile route traveled by Mormons who fled Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1846-1847

Martins Cove, Wyoming

A Brief History

The story of the Mormon Trail is rooted in the beginnings of a unique American religion. In 1827, 21-year-old Joseph Smith announced that he had unearthed a set of golden plates, inscribed with the tenants of God’s true church. Smith said that he had been directed to the plates by an angel named Moroni, who also had given him divine tools for translating the ancient inscriptions into English. Smith used these to produce new Scripture called the Book of Mormon. In 1830, in western New York, he organized a legal entity that would become The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His followers, who regarded Smith as a prophet, became known as Mormons.

Important differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon doctrine quickly emerged, but it was primarily hostilities over land, business, and politics that caused Smith repeatedly to move church headquarters. Driven out of Missouri in 1838, the Mormons finally settled along a bend of the Mississippi River in Illinois. There they established a community they called Nauvoo, a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful place.” It was at Nauvoo that Smith cautiously began introducing the Old Testament practice of “plural marriage,” or polygamy, among select church leaders.

Thousands of converts flocked to Nauvoo, soon making it the largest town in Illinois. Neighbors initially welcomed the orderly, industrious settlers despite their religious differences. But relations gradually soured, with complaints centering on Mormons’ clannish business practices, accusations of theft, their electoral sway, and Smith’s political aspirations. Meanwhile, dissent emerged within the church as rumors leaked of secret plural marriages. After an opposition newspaper publicly accused the prophet and other leaders of polygamy, Nauvoo’s city council and Smith declared the paper a public nuisance and Smith ordered destruction of its press. For that he and others were arrested and jailed at Carthage, Illinois. On June 27, 1844, a mob broke into the jail and murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Other vigilantes attacked Mormon farms around Nauvoo in an attempt to expel them.

Brigham Young stepped up as Smith’s successor and began planning an orderly, spring 1846 evacuation of some 15,000 faithful to the Great Basin, Mexican-held territory beyond the Rocky Mountains. However, as anti-Mormon violence heated, Young decided to organize a vanguard of church leaders to depart in late winter, hoping that would pacify the vigilantes until the main body of Mormons could start west in April. On February 4, 1846, the first wagons ferried across the Mississippi to Iowa. This group halted after five miles and set up camp at Sugar Creek for a lengthy wait as Young and his associates concluded business at Nauvoo. Meanwhile others, anxious not to be left behind, drifted over to join the Sugar Creek camp. Young’s vanguard company unexpectedly swelled from his intended 1,800 emigrants to around 3,000—many without their own wagons and provisions.

On March 1, 1846, some 500 Mormon wagons lurched northwesterly across the winter-

National Trails Intermountain Region
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
PO Box 728 

Santa Fe, NM 87504

Phone:

(801) 741-1012

https://www.nps.gov/mopi/index.htm

 

Shawnee National Forest – Illinois

 

There are many miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails in the Shawnee National Forest including the 160-mile River to River Trail.

One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods’ scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.

The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=10685&actid=50