One of the most picturesque
sites along the Rock River is just north of Oregon in Ogle County. Legend
has it that Chief Black Hawk, as he left the area after the Black Hawk
War, talked of the beauty of the area and admonished his captors to care
for the land as he and his people had. Lowden State Park was established
to care for the land and allow visitors to share in the beauty
as well. The park serves as a memorial to Gov. Frank O. Lowden, who served
Illinois during World War I.
Just north of Oregon,
the bluffs are graced with a majestic image of an American Indian gazing
over the Rock River Valley. This is no ordinary statue. It is a 50 foot,
concrete-reinforced wonder that is awe-inspiring. A tribute to all Native
Americans, but more commonly associated with Chief Black Hawk, the statue
was designed by sculptor Lorado Taft. You
can enjoy many wonderful views of the Rock River from the park, but the
best view of the statue is from IL Rt. 2. While the setting sun seems to bring the
statue to life, it is a spectacular view any time of the day and during all seasons.
IN 1898 Chicago attorney Wallace
Heckman, who also was assistant manager of the University of Chicago,
purchased the land that was to become Lowden State Park. He and
his wife had developed a great love of the outdoors while college students.
In Chicago society, the Heckmans also became patrons of the arts. They
combined these two interests as an artists' colony established on
their Rock River property. The colony was called "Eagles' Nest,"
referring to a tall, dead cedar tree that clung to the high river bank.
The bare, outstretched limbs of the tree inspired Margaret Fuller, a poet
of the Concord Group, to write the poem,"Ganymede to His Eagle."
For nearly 50 years,
Eagles' Nest was a popular home for creative people. The original group
included artists Ralph Clarkson, Charles Francis Browne and Oliver Dennet
Grove; writers Hamlin Garland, Henry B. Fuller and Horace Spencer Fiske;
architects Irving D. and Allen B. Pond; sculptors Lorado Taft and Nellie
Walker; organist Clarence Dickinson; and University of Chicago Secretary
James Spencer Dickerson. Although Taft was the moving spirit behind the
colony, it continued to flourish until 1942, six years after his death.
About a year after
the last of the artists and their families left the colony, Gov. Lowden
died, and the legislature appropriated $25,000 toward the cost of a memorial
to him. The citizens of Oregon and the vicinity, with help from the now Department
of Natural Resources, matched that amount so that the former Eagles' Nest
land could be purchased as a memorial park. In 1945, the 63rd General
Assembly designated the 273-acre site as Lowden State Park.
Six years later, the
66 acres that composed the actual Eagles Nest Colony were transferred
to Northern Illinois University at DeKalb for use as a outdoor teacher
education program. The site, called the Lorado Taft Field Campus, was
renovated by NIU's Industrial Arts classes and is used year-round for
conducting natural science classes in an outdoor setting.
Taft, who created the 50-foot statue as a tribute to Native Americans,
is said to have thought of the figure one evening as he and other members
of the Eagles' Nest colony stood gazing at the view from the bluffs. According
to a story attributed to Taft, he and his colleagues tended to stand with
their arms folded over their chests. The pose made him think of the Native
Americans who were so reverent of the beauty of nature and who probably
had enjoyed the same view.
With the help of John
G. Prasuhn, a young sculptor of the Chicago Art Institute, Taft created
a figure almost 50 feet tall, including a six-foot base. Reinforced with
iron rods, the hollow statue is 8 inches to 3 feet thick. The
interior is accessible to park employees through a door at the base. The
outer surface composed of cement, pink granite chips and screenings, is
three inches thick.
The figure is estimated
to weigh 100 tons and is thought to be the second-largest concrete monolithic
statue in the world. Although Taft dedicated the statue to Native Americans,
it has become commonly associated with Black Hawk.
You can enjoy the
beauty of Lowden State Park any time of the year, and the picnic areas
are open year-round. Conveniently located near the parking lots, the areas
include tables, drinking water, park stoves, outdoor toilets and litter
There are 80 Class A campsites which include electricity, a shower building, and a sanitary dumping station for trailers. Another option is the campground cabin which has two sets of bunk beds, a full-sized bed and electricity. Reservations are taken for the campsites and cabin at www.reserveamerica.com
Also available, are 38 Class B/S campsites which do not offer electricity, but do have access to showers. For the true wilderness experience, there are 8 Class D primitive hike-in only campsites.
During the summer, a refreshment stand provides
cool drinks, ice and wood. Contact park staff upon arrival for a camping
Almost 4 miles
of good foot trails lead visitors through the natural wonders and beauty
of the park.
The scenic Rock River
flows through 34 miles of Ogle County, with an average midsummer depth
of 3 feet. A new launching ramp and boat docks are located across the river from the park, 1 mile north of the town of Oregon on IL Hwy 2. Motor boaters and water skiers will enjoy all the
river has to offer, but swimming is not permitted. Boat fishermen can
spend their time catching largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, sunfish,
crappie, channel catfish, northern pike, walleye, bullhead, carp, sucker
Lowden Memorial State
Park can be reached from I-39 and I-88.
If traveling north or south on I-39, exit #104 on Rt 64 west 16 miles
to Oregon, take River Rd. right two miles to Park.
If traveling west on I-88 , exit on to I-39 north five miles to Exit #104,
Rt 64 west 16 miles to Oregon. Right on River Rd two miles to Park.
If traveling east on I-88, exit at Dixon on Rt #26 north to Rt 2 in Dixon.
Take Rt 2 north 18 miles to Oregon. Take Rt #64 in Oregon east across
Rock River. Left on River Rd two miles to Park.
If traveling south on Rt 2 to Oregon, left on Rt 64 across Rock River.
Left on River Rd two miles to Park.
- 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.