The Native American pathfinders along the
rock palisades of the Mississippi River did as present-day hikers do
-- in coursing the bluffs, they took the paths of least resistance. The
trails at the Mississippi Palisades, especially the parks southern
routes, put you in touch with the past. Walk them and youll trace
the footsteps of all those who came before you, some of whom came this
way nearly a thousand years ago.
Located near the confluence of the Mississippi
and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois, the 2,500-acre Mississippi
Palisades State Park is rich in American Indian history.
Palisades is the word used
to describe a line of lofty, steep cliffs usually seen along a river,
and Mississippi Palisades, 3 miles north of Savanna in Carroll County,
handsomely lives up to its name. Caves are evident as are dangerous sink
holes--limestone caves that go straight down. Erosion has carved intriguing
rock formations, including Indian Head, with its aquiline characteristics,
and Twin Sisters, a pair of humanoid figures on the bluff tops. The U.S.
Interior Department recognized the remarkable nature of this area
in 1973 when it designated acreage here as a national landmark.
Wooded ravines, whose brilliant
hues splash the cliffs with color each autumn, dissect the unglaciated
terrain. Ferns dot the deep ravines, while in the parks northern
region, white birch leaves of ripple in the wind. Each spring and
summer the valleys and slopes are dappled with the blooms of trillium,
bluebell, lobelia, shooting star and yellow ladies slipper.
Animal life, within the park
and the river areas immediately adjoining it, is varied. Waterfowl and
shorebirds are numerous, as are wild turkeys. Striking pileated woodpeckers
make their home in the park, and depending on ice conditions, eagles feed
at the river in January and February. Because so many birds migrate along
the river, their lyrical songs can be heard at the Mississippi Palisades
But not all thats fascinating
about Mississippi Palisades wildlife is in the skies. White-tailed
deer, gray squirrel, skunk, muskrat and weasel can be viewed in the park,
as can mink, gray and red fox, woodchuck and, occasionally, badger.
The gateway to seeing the
parks impressive assortment of plant and animal life is its rugged
15-mile trail system. The five trails in the northern part of the park
are generally wider and less strenuous than the five in the south, which
are narrow and extremely close to the bluff. The southern trails
are hazardous when wet.
The North System includes
High Point Trail at 3.5 miles and Aspen at 1.9 miles. Sentinel Trail the 1.2 miles, including spurs, is the South Systems longest hike,
but it and other southern loops are not for the tenderfoot. Ozzies
Point, Louis Point and Lookout Point, three developed overlooks accessible
by short walks, offer a surfaced trail leading to an overlook. Oak Point
offers a trail surface suitable for the physically challenged.
Hiking trails are closed
during the parks three-day firearm deer season, which is the 3 day weekend before Thanksgiving Day weekend. Information and maps are available at the park office as well as on this web page.
With 241 Class A and B sites
in both shaded and open areas, Mississippi Palisades is in demand by campers.
Electrical hookups are available at 110 sites. Showers and flush toilets
are situated in three buildings and are in operation from May 1 until
Oct. 31. The campground also features water and two sanitary dump stations.
Only campers with permits are allowed in the campground, with admittance
prohibited from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Reservations may be made through Reserve America. MAP
| Camping Fees
Two youth camping areas
also are available. These may be reserved from May 1 through Oct. 31.
An adult must accompany every group of 15 minors. Any group of 25 or more
must get permission from site personnel before entering the park.
With the Mississippi River
and its backwaters the perfect habitat for so many kinds of fish, anglers
are consistently baiting their hooks at Mississippi Palisades. Catfish
and carp are the most commonly caught fish, but bluegill, crappie and
bass are out there, too. Those long on experience might even land walleye
and northern pike. There are no motor size limits on boats, and launching
ramps at the river access areas are free.
Hunters gather at the park
each year for deer and wild turkey archery and firearm hunting. During
the three-day shotgun deer season, the day use area and hiking
trails are closed. Consult the Hunter Fact Sheet for more information.
Mississippi Palisades Hunter Fact Sheet | French Bluff Hunter Fact Sheet
Throw a checkered tablecloth
across one of the parks many picnic tables and enjoy one of summers
simple pleasures. The shelter houses and drinking fountains in the park attest to
the 1930s craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Six picnic shelters are available, three of which are able to be reserved through Reserve America.
Rock climbing is allowed in the park but only in specific areas. Rock climbing is allowed at the Sentinel Area, Twin Sisters and Indian Head. The south tower of Sentinel Rock is closed to climbing. Climbers should bring their own equipment and go directly to the bluff, no check-in is necessary. Permanent anchors are not allowed. Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not maintain the rocks, cliffs, or other natural features of Mississippi Palisades State Park and are not responsible for climber safety and climbing protection on cliffs. Climb at your own risk!
Dont let a little cold
weather keep you from visiting the park. Mississippi Palisades offers
cross-country skiing and sledding for outdoor enthusiasts. Anglers are not left out in the cold either--or maybe they are--because ice fishing is allowed
at the boat launch area when the ice is thick enough.
Enjoy Your Visit
Your trip to Mississippi
Palisades State Park will be more enjoyable for you and for everyone if
you follow a few simple rules. Keep your pets leashed at all times. Stay
on designated trails. Dont pick any flowers. As the Indians did,
leave only footprints.
From I-90, exit at US Rt.
20 west (Galena/Freeport exit). From Rt. 20, turn south on Rt. 84. The
park is located 18 miles from Rt. 20.
From I-80, exit on Rt. 84 and travel north approximately 50 miles to reach
the park which is located three miles north of Savanna.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community
Affairs' Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.