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 room 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.
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 freeze-up. Numerous hunt clubs are spotted throughout the Valley's Illinois River area. Popular among area fishing enthusiasts is the Master's Walleye Circuit Tournament held at the end of March at Barto Landing on the Illinois River in Spring Valley. It's a two-day professional team tournament with a cash purse of $54,000. The site of the tournament is said to have the best year-round fishing in Illinois.
In July, The Valley hosts the National Championship Boat Races on Lake DePue. Power boats from throughout the nation and several foreign countries race for the coveted crown of National Champion in each of 17 classes of boats. Along with the races there are live entertainment, 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.
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 diamond, 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 facilities of a modern YMCA include a weight and exercise room, two handball courts, a large gymnasium, and an attractive all-purpose room and offers extensive athletics and social programs for the whole family. Aerobic dancing, physical fitness classes, and karate rank high in popularity while volleyball, basketball, and soccer leagues remain as favorites. Programs are revised at the end of each eight-week session.
Five excellent golf courses, three public and one private, give golfers a choice of challenges. Tennis buffs have topnotch facilities at a private racquet club. The club provides opportunities for indoor tennis, handball, exercise and swimming. The pool also offers specialized sessions for arthritis, water walking & water exercise. There are several enjoyable bowling centers in the area. In addition, the communities of the Illinois Valley have three health clubs.
An amusement facility offers fun for the whole family, with a waterslide, mini golf, automatic batting cages, a driving range, go-karts, and bankshot basketball. 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 Valley-Regional Airport. An indoor playground called Absolute Fun is excellent for children's birthday parties and special days that call for pure fun.