Make The Most of the Dash
LaSalle Canyon at Starved Rock State Park - Oglesby, Illinois
Continuing our travels north we arrived at the Lock #21 Campground at the Hennepin Canal State Park in Sheffield, IL. We found that there are several Lock campgrounds along the canal, numbered differently. But we chose #21 based on the reviews we found in iOverlander, which also showed these campgrounds as free campsites. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case as a state park official made the rounds in the evening informing us of the $8.00 per family/per night fee. We gladly paid the nominal fee as it went towards the maintenance of the campgrounds which were clean and well-kept, and offered vault toilets.
Before we had set up camp for the night, we had driven out to nearby Starved Rock State Park to scout it out as it was noted as having some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the area. We parked by the Visitor Center and went in to buy our patch for our headliner. In speaking with the gift shop employee, she advised hiking to LaSalle Canyon as it had the most beautiful of all the waterfalls and the trail followed the Illinois River. She further advised being at the gate by 6:30 am, which is when the parks open, to have a greater chance to enjoy the waterfall all to ourselves.
We returned to camp and did a minimal setup to make quick work of breaking camp and setting out early the next day. We woke up at 4:30 am and were on the road by 5:45 am. La Salle Canyon is located about a 15-minute drive southwest of the main parking lot for Starved Rock State Park. Off of State Route 71, there is a small parking lot, Parkman's Plain, that is located at the trailhead and is open daily from 6:30 am to sunset. We arrived there a little early but were able to park across the street and wait for the park ranger to arrive and open the gate to the parking lot.
The hike to LaSalle Canyon is approximately 3 miles each way from the parking lot, and it consists of several stairs going in and out of canyons. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. The trail from the trailhead connects with the River Trail which takes you along the Illinois River for a good portion of the hike. As you make your way along the trail, be observant of your surroundings and footing as we saw one snake sunning itself in a tree along the trail and there were some slippery spots from the rains the area had experienced the night before.
With views of the Illinois River, sandstone canyon walls, lush greenery, and the cool early morning air made it an experience to remember. Our plan to be the first ones to the waterfall was rewarded with us being alone in the peace and quiet of the cascading falls for about 20 minutes. As a beautiful and picturesque sight, it was amazing to have LaSalle Canyon all to ourselves. We spent about 30 minutes taking in the beauty of this area before starting our hike back. As we made our way towards the parking lot we were so thankful we had arrived so early, we passed family after family heading to the falls and eventually passed two busloads of high school kids and their chaperones making their way to the falls. If you want to have some quiet time at the falls you definitely need to be there early. Be aware that the falls are seasonal, and if it has been dry for a while there might not be any water coming down. We spoke with a few people that told us that this hike is magical during the winter with the possibility of spotting bald eagles. We haven’t been on very many hikes at this point but I would definitely recommend this to anyone. Now get out and enjoy this place for yourself and make the most of the dash.
Brian, Anna Maria & Moose
Make the Most of the Dash
- Hennepin Canal Lock Campgrounds
- Starved Rock State Park Trail Map