The Illinois Valley is rich in opportunities for outdoor recreation. A few minutes from the Illinois Valley cities are three beautiful state parks where visitors can absorb breathtaking scenery, explore canyons, forests and streams, or simply commune with nature.
A famous natural area on the Illinois River, Starved Rock State Park, has miles of hiking trails, deep canyons, sandstone bluffs, and the remains of two Indian villages. This beautiful 2,630-acre site offers camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and picnicking.
The park lodge is a rustic log and stone structure with an enormous great hall highlighted by a vaulted, log-beamed ceiling. Its central focal point is a huge, two-sided stone fireplace. The lodge offers its visitors an indoor swimming pool and children's pool, has a game room, exercise room, whirlpool, saunas, outside sunning patio, restaurant, gift shop, and cocktail lounge and bar. Guests spending the night will find the lodge's 71 guest rooms and 22 guest cabin rooms to be very cozy, clean, and peaceful. Lodge guests are treated to Veranda Parties each Friday evening from May through September. The entertainment and food differs each week, so Veranda Parties are always fresh and entertaining.
New to Starved Rock State Park is the trolley. It is a great way to travel through the park and learn about its history. The trolley also travels outside the park, giving tours to various places of interest.
Matthiessen State Park was presented to the state by the heirs of the late F.W. Matthiessen, a prominent LaSalle industrialist and philanthropist. Rich in history and geological formations, the 1,938-acre park is a delight for flower lovers and bird watchers. Its principal canyon, a striking gorge nearly 200 feet deep and 50 to 60 feet wide, is a prime attraction.
Buffalo Rock State Park is situated on a bluff 10 miles east of LaSalle. From the summit of Buffalo Rock, visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the Illinois River. The park has several popular picnicking areas, a shelter house, and provisions for outdoor cooking.
Cross-country skiing, ice skating, tobogganing, and snowmobiling are among the wintertime recreational opportunities available in state parks in the Illinois Valley.
The Illinois River provides superb water sports. Summer sailing, power-boating, and water-skiing are popular among residents. Two boat clubs in Peru and Spring Valley have docking facilities and comfortable clubrooms. Several other public boat launching ramps are available.
Hunters and fishermen are in their glory in the Illinois Valley. Northern pike, walleye, and small-mouth bass are among the numerous varieties of fish that frequent the Illinois River and dozens of tributary streams flowing through woodlands and pastures. Backwaters of the river, plus the bottom lands, abound with water fowl. Ducks and geese by the thousands headquarter in the region until long after a freeze. Numerous hunt clubs are spotted throughout the Valley's Illinois River area.
The Masters Walleye Circuit, Inc. Tournament is a very well-known event, even outside the state of Illinois. It is a two-day professional team tournament held at the Illinois River in Spring Valley. A large cash prize is awarded to the team who catches the biggest walleye during the two days of fishing.
For those interested in boat racing, the National Championship Boat Races featuring power boat racers from across the U.S. and several foreign countries, bring an estimated attendance of 40,000 people to DePue in July. The race is for the coveted crown of National Champion in each of the 17 classes of boats. Along with the races, live entertainment is provided as well as food stands, carnival rides and a beer garden.
The Vermilion River which joins the Illinois River at Oglesby, offers the best white water canoeing in the state. Hennepin Canal Park, west of Spring Valley, is another favorite water recreation and fishing location.
Dock 14 on the Illinois-Michigan Canal at LaSalle is a favorite spot for fishing. Being a historical site, the lock has undergone extensive restoration in recent years, and has become part of the National Historic Corridor, giving it the status of a National Park.
Coal Mine Park in Spring Valley is a rather new park with a twist of history, and how it came to be is quite unique. Spring Valley was founded because of the coal vein about 300 feet below the surface. The #1 mine shaft opened in the late 1800s and was operational until the 1920s. The natural springs in Spring Valley have created a two-acre pond which has a variety of bass, blue gill and catfish. With the coal mine no longer in use, and fish in abundance, it has the makings of a great park. The park sits on 26 acres and is in a natural state, with surrounding trails. Further improvements on the trail are in the works. Coal Mine Park is a great place for sled riding as well.
The communities of the Illinois Valley have more than 20 parks and offer a variety of outdoor sports and programs. Many parks are fully developed with picnic shelters, baseball and softball diamonds, and playground apparatus. Several have tennis courts and outdoor public swimming pools.
Park recreation programs feature activities for all ages, including youth football, classes in arts and crafts, Little League, tennis and swimming lessons, and softball leagues.
The Illinois Valley YMCA includes a 30,000 sq. ft. exercise center with indoor walking/running track, cardiovascular area, weight room, two large gymnasiums, racquetball courts, and extensive athletic and social programs for the whole family. Group exercise, tumbling, dance, youth sports and adult sports are a few of the many YMCA offerings. Programs are revised at the end of each eight-week session. The YMCA serves the entire Illinois Valley Area.
Five excellent golf courses, four public and one private, give golfers a choice of challenges. Bicycling, bowling, horseback riding, rafting, camping and boat tours can also be enjoyed in the Illinois Valley.
An amusement facility offers fun for the whole family, with a waterside, mini golf, bumper boats, a golf range, paintball and arcade. Stock car racing is available every Saturday night for all those who enjoy watching or living life in the fast lane. For those who enjoy a more relaxing but adventurous type of recreation, airplane rides viewing the beautiful Illinois Valley area are offered at the Illinois ValleyRegional Airport.
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