It’s a nice get away from the city. I haven’t stayed at any of the backpacking sites, but the main campground. It is located under a bunch of tall pines, and feels fairly open. You’re close to others, and there isn’t a lot of privacy, but it is pretty. There are a lot of trails, but keep in mind a number of them will have you walking in sandy paths (hence the name). You can even spot some cacti out there, which is a site when you’re in the Midwest. There is also a verse camp, which I have walked through. It has a large pavilion, and all the sites have 0 shade. It’s about 3 hours from Chicago, so I like to hit it up for a quick get-away to avoid paying Wisconsin prices. I have never seen it packed.
Compared to other IL campsites, this one is prettier, but versus places I've been in WI or CO, this doesn't have as pretty scenery.
It is well maintained. There are some sites with no privacy, but if you get one in the treed area you will have some. My site could see are neighbor pretty easily but we set up our tent to block the opening in the trees.
P.S. raccoons are very used to humans and came up to us looking for food.
This is a pretty area on the Evergreen Lake with mature trees and open spaces. The area I camped in had large spaces between the sites which was nice, but there was no foliage to provide privacy or sound buffering. I could hear one campers entire angry phone conversation. On the plus side, the stars were amazing.
The pad at site 38 was gravel and uneven with electric only. Good electric though. There was a picnic bench and a fire pit, but the bench had been pulled over the pit which was odd. The dump station was also strangely located. It was down the road from the park. The bathrooms have seen better days and so have the sites I viewed. It’s sad because this park looks like it was a real beauty in it’s prime.
Spent a couple nights here (site 3) for Vintage Illinois at a nearby park. Quiet, fairly level, gravel sites. Electric worn but fully functional. Lots of trees and shade. From map it looked like site 3 was isolated at end of loop - weeellll, it IS at the end of a loop - right across from camp host and adjacent to maintenance area for lock & dam - not very picturesque. Didn’t use bathhouse so can’t comment on that. Drink vending machines by bathhouse. Local guy across from entrance to park sells firewood. Site had fire ring and picnic table. One thing to note - trees drop some kinda “nuts” and when you drive over them they pop and it sounds just like you are dragging low hanging branches. I started to backing and swore I was hitting branches (even though I’d looked and knew it was clear) and DW said we were clear….
Just down the street from Starved Rock State Park and Matthiessen State Park is the much smaller(and less crowded) Buffalo Rock State Park. It has some trails, camping, a playground and other facilities, and is right next to the I& M Canal Tow Path.
At a leisurely pace, it only took me a couple of hours to walk all the trails. They are nice well-kept trails. Most of the surface is gravel but some parts are just dirt. The trail is wide and mowed at least two feet on either side. I’m not sure if bikes are allowed; I did see bike tracks and did not see any sign that indicated they were not allowed. Very little elevation changes and none that were steep. There are a couple of overlooks that offer beautiful views of Illinois River.
The campsites are directly off of the towpath. The furthest site(the group site) is three miles from the ranger station. There are four sites total. One of the sites is kinda small but big enough for a single tent and two campers. The largest site is the group site which is the only site with a picnic table and shelter. The shelter needed some work but overall was in decent condition. It as a fireplace that was pretty neat. Each site has a fire ring with grill. I did feel a little exposed being right off the trail. I was nervous leaving all my gear behind when I went for a hike. Nobody messed with my stuff though and everyone I saw was very friendly. I did have a visitor around two in the morning my second night. He was looking for a place to rest for a few hours and left at daybreak. The sites are only accessible by walking or biking.
The park has a playground, restroom(with running water), and drinking fountains with spouts. The water tasted funny but it was nice having a source to refill my bottles. Also, there are buffalo and that’s pretty cool.
Went tent camping here and reserved our spot in advance. We bought fire wood from a locals front lawn at the entrance to the state park. Put 5$ in the bin and take a bundle. Its 30 mins away from Starved Rock and Matthiesson State Park. Good hiking. The river spots are all booked by large RVs and the tent spots have grills over the fire pits and picnic tables. lots of tree cover which came in handy when it rained in the morning. Otherwise great weather and not buggy. Dogs allowed.
FHU, shower house, no laundry but there are small towns close by that have stores, gas, and laundry facilities. On Saturday night they offer classic country music free. Special events throughout the summer. Two fishing ponds. No license required. Catch and keep. Nice big areas with playgrounds for kids. Bouchée ball courts.
Beautiful canyons to hike through! Many waterfalls and streams as well!
The campground is pretty basic. For $25-35 per night, you can get a site with electrical hookup. The east loop has better tree coverage and more privacy. The west loop has more site in a large open space, maybe better for groups. I give 3 stars because there is not much to do at the campground itself. You have to get in your car and drive to any hiking at Starved Rock State park, just 10 min away, and battle the crowds for parking. The campground has just 2 real bathrooms, one for each loop. Each has 2 flush toilets and 2 showers. Showers were pretty rough, no temp control and spraying everywhere but your body. Some portapotties are scattered around, but pretty ripe by the end of August. Use the woods. There are 2 small playgrounds, but one is just a swing set. So if you have kiddos, there is not much for them to entertain themselves with at the campground- no hiking trails, no pond or fishing or swimming, no DNR programs, etc. Park has posted signed that there is ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL allowed, so keep it private and quiet. that being said, the hiking in the general area is awesome!!! Lots of canyons, bluffs, and overlooks. Just be prepared to drive. A very basic “store” open after 3pm, just had fire starters, marshmallows, bug spray, ice cream, and pop. Some little souvenirs. No milk or eggs. For a 30 ft travel trailer, our campsite has just enough room for our slide out and awning. The fire pit was well placed and had a grate for cooking. Electrical was confusing- our site was listed at 50A only. It really was 50/30/20A(see pictures). Easy to back in to, mostly level site for quick set up. Our campsite, 85, had nice shade and lots of trees. You can see and hear your neighbors but there is decent separation. We had space to hang a hammock and have a fire, with a full picnic table as well. There are a few sites for fresh water fill, and a dump station. Took about 45 min for us to dump being 5th in line at 10:30am. Book early- reservations open online 6 months in advance and book up quickly. Most summer weekends are completely full. Spring and fall camping is great here- waterfalls are rain fed and often dry in summer. Sites 96 and 97 would be my picks if I could choose: both are private and have large camping pad areas. Avoid the sites by water spouts and roads, there is no privacy when everyone is cutting through your site! Overall, a basic campground with what you need for camping, no frills, no activities or recreation, but close to the hiking at Starved Rock State Park about 10 min away by car. Biking nearby would be an extreme sport, the roads are very narrow with extreme drop offs and no shoulder. Not for kids.
This is a group only campground. You also need to reserve this- it’s not one you just show up to. There is a big open field with 2 covered picnic table areas. Each one has 2 tables in it. A standout feature might be the 2 huge fit pits. They each have a nice wood ring that is perfect to sit on for some evening storytelling. One set of vault toilets is off to the side.
One drawback is the amount of prickly pear cacti. It is everywhere! There are some free areas to set up a tent but definitely watch where you walk. This camp is also in a clearing so there’s no shade except by the edges.
Another option is Pine Campground which is just down the road. There are also individual back country sites that you can backpack to.
The natural area has some great hiking (the ranger recommends the green trail). There is also hunting and fishing here. A horse campground around the bend means you might encounter some on the trails.
This is a nice area set aside from all other campers but it’s in the open and those cacti are a pain.
This is a nice campground, especially for families. It would be perfect for groups of families traveling together or a reunion or something. That being said, it’s very busy during peak times with lots of children. Dogs are allowed and lots of people bring them. Plan on making reservations in advance (especially if you need 50 amp or a space for a large RV). Sites have electric and a picnic table plus fire pit and there’s firewood for sale on site. NO alcohol is allowed. The gates are closed from 10p-8:30a so plan accordingly. We have AT&T and barely ever had service on our phones but it’s better up at the actual park
The back part of the loop had pit toilets and there are flush toilets and showers up front along with a spigot for water. Taste of the water is ok. Dumpsters for trash are by where you pull in and out. A few notes on the bathrooms/showers:
Lights are not on inside the bathrooms overnight.
Only two showers each for men and women. The women’s showers had a line around 8am. No lines for showers in middle of the day or around dinner time.
Showers are the type where you push the button and the (hot!!) water runs for two minutes then turns off and you have to push it again.
Shower area is a little bit older but toilets are fine and the sinks have soap and a hand dryer.
RVs will probably like the inside part of the loop ok (42-53, 39-42) but I wouldn’t stay there in a tent unless you had a group and were booking multiple sites. We (tent campers) had site 50 (very similar to 46 and 48 also) and it was okay. You’re fairly close to your neighbors. Site 52 is amazing for tent campers (it’s way back from the road although still drive in) but you’re farther from your electricity there.
Starved Rock is beautiful but can be very busy on nice weekends. There is dining at the lodge including one place open in the summer where you can bring your dog (has outdoor patio). Matthiessen State Park is beautiful as well but get there early because by mid morning the parking can fill up. There are things to do in town as well (wineries, shopping). If you are just going for hiking a weekend is probably a sufficient length of time to stay.
A note on wheelchair access: the bathrooms are accessible as is the campground overall (there are paved roads) but Starved Rock and Matthiessen are both very heavy on the stairs.
This is a hidden gem! We camped immersed in a pine forest. Can you smell that fragrance? This is a nice size campground that feels larger because so few are camping here this weekend.
Our site is up against the woods giving us a sense of being on our own. Vault toilets are clean and in a couple locations. We have two trees perfect for the hammock and yet enough sun to use the solar panels.
One odd point is that we couldn’t find a way to pay. During office hours, you pay at the ranger’s place just down the road. We arrived late but he came around the next morning to check in everyone. He pointed out the 2 water pumps that work and we had a nice chat.
The ranger directed us to hike the green trail. It touches on all the various ecosystems that are found here. It was a great hike and not that difficult at all. It just a short drive away. He also said to watch out for prickly pear as you roam the natural area.
Another camper has been alternating camping here with backpacking to more remote spots. It’s good to have options.
Backpacking, hiking, fishing, horses and hunting can all be done in this large nature area.
As a Dyrt Ranger I sometimes get products to evaluate. This trip I tested out the Horizon hat by Banner and Oak.
The Freedom to Explore hat has material over the entire head (not mesh like many other hats of this type). This caught my eye since my lack of hair requires sun protection. I was perfectly happy with this hat. The material is soft and it adjusted to fit perfectly. It was a comfort to know my head was protected.
A side job I asked of it was swatting away all the spiderwebs. We were the first on the trail and they were everywhere! Banner and Oak to the rescue! Their hat slipped on and off easily as I quickly swung it into action.
(Side comment: the Banner and Oak carabiner was great at being a second attachment for my dog’s leash. She broke the metal on her last harness and it’s nice having some reassurance)
I’m recommending this Banner and Oak hat! It works beautifully and carries a message to encourage everyone to find the courage to get outside.
Very large campground. Many seasonal areas. Will let you set up a group of campers in a circle in grassy areas. They do an extremely large Halloween event Columbus Day weekend. Jam packed for this event. Awards for site decoration. Campsites set up haunted houses, candy for kids, drinks for adults. Fun to see adults and kids all dressed up.
We tried to stay in site 14 that had 30 amp service. Our TT is 30amp. Our A/C unit kept tripping the breaker on the campground pole. Our breaker inside never tripped. They had someone come out and claimed their electric was fine and our A/C was broken. Went home bc it was 95 out and our A/C ran fine off a 20amp household outlet with no issues. Reported this so it could be fixed and the office still argued that their service was fine.
Starved Rock State Park is a nice place. The camp sites are nice as well as pretty spacious on the whole. Lots of green between nearly all sites. It has rained a lot lately and it can be a little muddy, not really the parks fault. There are ports-potties in the loop and really run down shower houses at the entrance of the loops. The little store is tiny with limited hours. Firewood is expensive, but I can not vouch for the quality. The loop roads are in disrepair with a lot of broken surface and potholes. Lots of shade in the back. May or may not come back.
Stayed here in early June during a trip to Starved Rock, which is a quick 10-15 minute drive. Camp hosts are very nice and the the grounds well maintained. I stayed on site 5 which is a full hookup but best for a small camper. I have a 14 foot travel trailer and it just fit with my SUV in front. The spots are very tight and you have very little room between you and your neighbor. With all the rain this year, many sites flooded during a storm while we camped and they had to be moved to other areas that were not actual sites so it was a bit crazy…hosts did a great job taking care of everyone effected. Campground has a cute dog park and a beautiful stream that runs through it. I would stay here again!!
Beautiful spot for our single overnight. Staff were great; friendly and helpful. Park was well kept, with lots of green around RV and tent sites. Nice pool, dog park, store, and even a stream system that wanders through the park (no swimming in the stream). Also close to Starved Rock State Park for some neat scenery and hiking. The only downside side is that some of the RV sites are a little close together - didn’t impact our stay though. Two thumbs up! :)
Very small CG with maybe 10-15 sites. All electric hookup, Has dump station a little down the road.
Slough just behind you from the river, many boaters and blinds set up. You have to drive a bit to find the trails but they are nice trails. CG is right off the main road so you do hear a lot of traffic and I would be worried with small children moving around there. There are vault toilets, no sinks or showers.
There is a sportsman’s club around the area so you’ll hear a lot of gun shots, it’s public hunting land so watch what time of year you go out for hiking or boating. We hunt small game there and I know locals hunt deer and duck.