The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway ties together more than 100 nature-based destinations and unique communities throughout the Midwest in the Illinois River Valley. So, what are some top spots?
Heritage Harbor Ottawa, premier resort and waterfront community, is located in one of five Illinois River Road Gateway Communities-Ottawa, Ill. The Heritage Harbor community has harnessed its hometown and local knowledge to help guide the way along the Illinois River Road with its Top 5 Suggested Attractions.
The Illinois byway is filled with tons of places to discover and experience the nature of the Illinois Valley, while also meandering through often overlooked communities. Whether it’s boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, exploring wetlands, gardens, birding and watching wildlife, the possibilities for adventure are endless.
Here are the Top 5 Best Illinois River Road Attractions, according to Heritage Harbor:
Illini State Park
Located across the Illinois River from the town of Marseilles, the 510-acre Illini State Park lies along the northern edge of the “Great Falls” of the river. There, a drop in streambed gradient creates beautiful roaring rapids. The park sits atop an old glacial moraine and features a dense hardwood forest. Hikers (and winter cross country skiers) can take the park’s Marasottawa Trail. It loops from the Sycamore Grove Shelter on the east end of the park up to the Mallard Bay Shelter and Boat Launch on the east end.
City of Ottawa
A gateway city on the River Road (and home to Heritage Harbor), Ottawa combines historical sites with new age beauty and entertainment with unique gift shops, bars and restaurants. Constructed in 1858 by former Illinois State Senator William Reddick, Reddick Mansion is the oldest surviving building in Ottawa’s historic Washington Square. Today, Reddick Mansion is open for tours. Ottawa’s other historic sites include Washington Square, where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas convened in 1858 for the first of seven senatorial debates; Ottawa’s Mural Program, a public art program erecting large murals by world class artists on exterior walls of the older (Victorian) commercial buildings in Ottawa’s Historic Downtown; Ottawa’s River Walk, a 3.5-mile paved walk along the Fox River; and Allen Park offers some of the best local views of the Illinois River along with picnic shelters, boat launches, playgrounds, and a collection of outdoor sculptures.
Hopalong Cassidy River Trail
This trail parallels the swift-flowing waters of the Vermilion River in the town of Streator. Visitors can follow the trail through an urban forest of mulberry, hackberry, oak, and maple. Blue Jays, chickadees, and woodpeckers flit in and out of the riparian trees as butterflies and dragonflies frolic along the trail’s sunnier stretches. The trail ends at a public canoe launch.
Starved Rock State Park
The 2,816-acre Starved Rock State Park complex in Utica, Ill., is one of the best publicly-held natural areas in all of Illinois. The park has 18 distinct canyons created by St. Peter sandstone. Seasonally, the canyons either have sparkling waterfalls or magnificent and immense ice falls. Throughout the spring and summer, wildflowers sprinkle the land. The park’s Visitor Center also has native Illinois River fish, a replica of a native wig-wam, interactive displays, guided hikes and nature programs on a year-round basis.
La Salle’s Lock 16 Canal
Lock 16 Visitor Center and I&M Canal Boat Ride are located at the corner of First Street and Route 351 at the Illinois & Michigan Canal in downtown La Salle. Visitors can enjoy a one-hour 1848 canal boat ride with guides from the era. The Lock 16 Visitor Center also has a gift shop and the cafe is open year round.
For more information on the Illinois River Road Scenic Byway, visit its website at http://www.illinoisriverroad.org/. More information on Heritage Harbor, its amenities or a visit to Ottawa can be found by reaching Tammy Barry at 815-433-5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.