Nestled in the Rock River Valley, just 3 miles south of the town of Oregon, lies a 2,291-acre wooded area that is one of Ogle County's most beautiful and historic sites. Its scenic qualities come from 120-foot bluffs along 3.5 miles of riverfront forested with hardwood and pine trees. The history stems from the individual who, in the early part of the 20th century, augmented the natural hardwood forest by planting pines. Frank O. Lowden (1861-1943), Illinois' governor from 1917-1921, ardently embraced proper land use and strongly believed in reforestation as a way to retard soil erosion. Over several decades, an estimated 500,000 trees were seeded directly by him or under his supervision.
Since 1992, the tract has been known as Lowden-Miller State Forest. But prior to that Gov. Lowden and his wife, Florence Pullam Lowden, called it Sinnissippi Forest. Sinnissippi is from American Indian terms meaning "rocky river" or "troubled waters." It was part of a large and diverse farming operation that incorporated not only native hardwoods but pasture and sandy farmland. Because the soil was of limited use for crops. Lowden experimentally planted white pines and other tree species to see what would grow productively. The earliest plantings of white pines occurred before 1910 and are believed to be the oldest in the state.
The governor's love of the land transcended his desire to continue in political office. In his 1916 campaign, Lowden insisted that he wanted to serve only one term as governor as her preferred to return to his farm and forest. In his biography, Squire of the Sinnissippi, Gov. Lowden wrote: "I like to think of this beautiful and fertile spot as the place where my children and my children's children and their children after them will gather long after I have become dust, and in the shade of the old trees my own hand had planted."
The governor remained an avid student of forestry throughout his life. In 1938, he invited the new forestry department at the the University of Illinois to conduct research on the developing forest. Today, with nearly 80 percent of all data on Illinois hardwood forest growth having been developed at Sinnissippi, the forest still serves as a field laboratory for the university.
The family's Sinnissippi Forest Christmas Tree wholesale and retail business began providing high-quality firs and pines for the holiday in 1948, but the family closed their Christmas tree sales operation in 2010. In 1955, Sinnissippi Forest was designated the first Illinois Tree Farm.
In June 1992, the state of Illinois purchased a 1,186 acre parcel of the forest from a grandson of Gov. and Mrs. Lowden, Warren P. Miller and his wife, Nancy. Warren's brother, Phillip Lowden Miller and his wife, Bonnie, sold an additional 1,039 acres to the state in 1993. In offering their land for sale to the state rather than seeing it subdivided or rezoned for development, the family said they were achieving their goal of keeping the area an actively managed forest and preserving its beauty for future generations.
Named for the family, Lowden-Miller State Forest now totals 2,291 acres. It is located across the Rock River from another DNR property, Castle Rock Sate Park, which oversees its daily operations.
The Department of Natural Resources' Forestry Division has ongoing forestry studies and projects such as controlling some exotic tree species and planting an oak seed orchard. Other forestry projects include thinning pines and working to control tree diseases. The forest's purpose is to provide an outstanding outdoor facility for the public where forestry education can continue.
Six parking areas are available to the public. Information on the site is available at each lot.
The site offers deer, squirrel and turkey hunting. Lowden-Miller Hunter Fact Sheet
Lowden-Miller State Forest has approximately 22 miles of maintained trails available for hiking and cross-country skiing. Trails are open for use year-round except for a few days during the firearm hunting season. Check for closing dates at Castle Rock State Park.
A self-guided nature trail, Loggers Trails, covers a 1.5 mile route and is accessible at parking lot 1.
An equestrian parking area and designated horse trails are available. For information on the equestrian program and trail usage, contact Castle Rock State Park.
While camping facilities are not available at Lowden-Miller State Forest, other nearby state sites offer them, including Castle Rock State Park or Lowden Memorial State Park, both near Oregon, or White Pines Forest State Park, near Mount Morris.
State Forest is located along the eastern shoreline of the Rock River,
4 miles south of IL Hwy 64 at Oregon, IL.
If traveling east from the Chicago
area, take I-90 to Rockford. At Rockford, take I-39 south 20 miles to
IL Hwy 64 and take Hwy 64 west 15 miles to Oregon. At first stop light,
turn left on Daysville Rd., go 2 miles and turn right on Lowden Rd. Go
1 mile, then turn right on Nashua Rd. to State Forest.
If traveling west on I-88 take Exit 97 at Rochelle, IL. Take I-39 north
7 miles to Hwy 64, Exit 104 and go west on Hwy 64 for 15 miles to Oregon.
Follow the above directions from IL Hwy 64 and Daysville Rd. to the State
If traveling on Hwy 26 south of Dixon, IL, take IL Hwy 26 north into Dixon.
In Dixon take IL Hwy 2 north for 15 miles into Oregon, IL. In Oregon take
IL Hwy 64 east across Rock River. At stop lights of Hwy 64 and Daysville
Rd, follow above directions on Daysville Rd.
If traveling east on I-88 west of Dixon, IL, take exit at Dixon on Il
Hwy 26 north. In Dixon take IL Rt 2 north for 15 miles to Oregon. In Oregon
take IL Hwy 64 across Rock River. At stop lights of Hwy 64 and Daysville
Rd, follow above directions to the State Forest.
- 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.