Illini State Park is the type of park
you think of when you think of big picnics and family gatherings.
With its rustic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings and riverside
picnic areas, Illini State Park offers beautiful views and a sense
of history not found in many other parks.
Named for the native Americans who once inhabited
the area, Illini State Park is located south of the Illinois River between
Marseilles and U.S. Route 6. The northern edge of the 510-acre park is
bordered by the Great Falls of the Illinois River. In just 2 miles,
the river drops 3 feet, creating beautiful, roaring rapids. The east
end of the park is the former site of the prestigious Marsatawa Country
reminders of America's Industrial Age can be seen at Illini State Park.
The area is part of an old glacial feature called the Marseilles Moraine
and is underlaid by 100 feet of coal. A large coal mine 1 mile south
of the park supplied coal to Marseilles industries until World War II.
The Illinois Traction System, an interurban electric transit system that
ran from Chicago to Princeton, was one of those industries. The Marseilles
powerhouse for the ITS can still be seen on the north bank of the river.
Less than 1 mile north of the park is the
historic Illinois-Michigan Canal, completed in 1848 when the
section from Marseilles to Morris opened. The I & M Canal carried
the area's commerce until the railroads became the transportation giants.
Although the Illinois River rapids are wonderful
to watch, they made barge traffic difficult. In the mid-1920s, the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers built a barge canal to bypass the rapids. The canal
borders the park on the north, and visitors can watch as large barges
pass and through the Marseilles Locks.
The prestigious Marsatawa Country Club once
graced the east end of the park. Organized by Ottawa resident W.D. Boyce,
who also founded the Boy Scouts of America, the club boasted one of the
premier golf courses of its day.
In the 1930s, two companies of the Civilian
Conservation Corps converted the golf course to a park and constructed
buildings still in use today. The former country club building
was moved into Marseilles and serves as the American Legion Hall.
The CCC camp at the west end of the park
was converted into a semi-correctional boys' camp that provided maintenance
in the park until it was closed in the late 1960s.
Illini entered the state park system in 1934
and was dedicated in 1935.
Hickory, ash, walnut, elm, cottonwood, oak
and maple trees provide shady coolness in the summer and beautiful colors
in the fall. Spring is highlighted by blooming wildflowers, White-tailed
deer, squirrels, opossums, beavers, raccoon, groundhogs and a variety of
waterfowl and songbirds can be seen throughout the year.
Scattered throughout the park are picnic
areas and shelters with tables, outdoor grills, drinking water, toilets
and playgrounds. Several of the shelters also have working fireplaces.
There is something for every type of
camper at Illini State Park. Both tent and trailer sites, including
electric and sanitation service, are offered and some of the sites
offer breathtaking views of the river. A youth area is available
for youth groups and should be reserved in advance through the site
office. All campers should obtain permits from the site staff or
campground host upon arrival. Reservations
Anglers will find ample supplies of crappie,
bass, bluegill, catfish, carp, bullheads and many other species in the
Illinois River. A boat ramp is available for visitors' boats. Although there is no motor limit on the Illinois
River, boaters should be aware of the danger of barge traffic and the
close proximity of the Marseilles Lock and Dam.
State Park is the perfect place for winter fun. An ice skating pool and
hills ideal for sledding provide hardy outdoor enjoyment. A shelter offers
a comfortable setting for warming fingers and toes after a winter workout.
Hikers will enjoy exploring the park and
its many scenic and historic offerings. Open fields, a baseball diamond
and numerous horseshoe pits provide additional recreational opportunities.
A concession stand has food and drink in the warmer months.
- 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 conflicts.
- 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.
Device for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information
(217) 782-9175 for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.