Yesterday Bill and I spent my birthday hiking at Matthiessen State Park in Illinois. It had everything a hiker could want: great paths, waterfalls, a lake. This was my first trip there, but I woke up thinking about it this morning, wanting to go back. It is in LaSalle County, near the cute little town of Utica, and near several other State Parks. You could spend a couple of days there without running out of places to explore.
About Matthiessen State Park from the DNR’s website:
“Canyons, streams, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, approximately four miles south of Utica and three miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for a special outing.
Matthiessen State Park was named for Frederick William Matthiessen, a prominent industrialist and philanthropist from LaSalle. He originally purchased the land near the end of the 19th Century and developed it as a privately owned park for many years. Mr. Matthiessen employed about 50 people to construct trails, bridges, stairways and check dams. The area was originally referred to as “Deer Park,” in reference to the large deer population. The original 176-acre park consisted primarily of a long narrow canyon with a small stream flowing through it. At that time these formations were called “dells,” a name that has stayed with the park. After Matthiessen’s death, the park was donated to the State of Illinois, which opened it as a public park. In 1943, the state renamed the park in honor of Matthiessen. Since then, the park has grown to 1,938 acres and includes much of the significant natural areas along the main dell, some former prairie land, and some forest land south of the original park.”