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Matthiessen State Park, Utica

4.7
#5 of 38 in Nature in Illinois
Matthiessen State Park is an Illinois state park located a few miles south of the more famous Starved Rock State Park. The main entrances to both parks are located on Illinois State Route 178.HistoryThe park is near Oglesby, in LaSalle County, Illinois, United States. It is named for Frederick William Matthiessen, who had originally owned the of property that is at the core of the current park. Two mansions, several cottages, a garage, and a private fire station were built here by Matthiessen for his family. It was an estate that hosted a private park known as "Deer Park". The park was donated to Illinois by Matthiessen's heirs, following his death in 1918, and was renamed in his honor in 1943. Since then, land was added, growing the park to. The last building of the former estate was destroyed in 1981, although some of the concrete stairs leading into the canyon are of the original construction.GeologyThe park is centered on a stream that flows from Matthiessen Lake to the Vermilion River. The stream has eroded partway through the sandstone layers, leaving interesting rock formations and drops. The Upper Dells begin at Matthiessen Lake with the Lake Falls, which drop into the canyon below, and continue downstream to the 45ft Cascade Falls where the Lower Dells begin. The interesting coloration of many of the canyons is the result of minerals in the groundwater. Many mineral springs exist throughout the park, providing salt lick spots for the large deer population.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
364 reviews
Google
4.8
TripAdvisor
  • August 14, 2017
    Great place to spend the day with the family love all the waterfalls and the caves beautiful views plenty to do make sure you bring a camera  more »
  • August 13, 2017
    Illinois needs to mark its trails and key points. We guessed at whether we saw points marked on maps. Not even sure we were always on trails in the canyons. Parking is terrible. Go super early in day ...  more »
  • August 9, 2017
    Very easy hiking from maybe a mile to about 3 miles. We stopped by on a Sunday afternoon and the weather was perfect. The park was very busy and we had to park in the overflow lot. The only downside i...  more »
Google
  • July 3, 2017
    Must go spot for a very good trail, river and nice falls. Dells is where you can see the falls. You can spend entire day at this place. Parking is limited. But you can park in extended parking spaces. Take your own food. You won't find any restaurants near by. Good place for camping and hiking.
  • June 15, 2017
    The waterfall is more than beautiful and a great experience but there really needs to be an attendant there to make sure people are not bringing plastic bottles or beer bottles down by the lower dells part. My daughter almost cut her foot not once but twice on broken beer bottles. Luckily I was paying close attention to the ground because of the teenagers and young adults who were treating the space as their own personal rave spot. And some were even climbing the rocks so I'm seeing serious injuries in the near future. The waterfall lake part was filled with 20 floating plastic bottles as well. Other than that if u keep your eyes peeled and ignore the kids it was actually an amazing place.
  • July 9, 2017
    This is a great alternative to the widely-known Starved Rock park, just a mile up the road. We love this place because you can walk through the river deep down in the canyons and bask in multiple water falls. Not the best place for someone who has difficulty with stairs because it is a steep walk down and up again.
  • June 26, 2017
    Usually I love this place but this trip was bad. We tried to do a trail loop but kept running into trail closed signs. And it seems pretty likely that the map that told us that going straight was part of the loop was wrong. Lots of trail closures right now.
  • March 23, 2017
    Matthiessen State Park is Starved Rock's little sister. Just down the road, I suspect most visitors to Matthiessen come after visiting the larger and more famous sibling. Matthiessen suffers from the same draw backs as Starved Rock as well - it is usually way to crowded! If you looking for a nice quiet day hike in nature with a minimum amount of interference by other human beings, this is not the place to go. Especially in the warmer months. My suggestion for either park is to visit on a week day in Winter. About the only time you can hope to enjoy the park in peace. Matthiessen does have some beautiful "dells" formations, basically high cliffs or canyons that follow to course of a shallow creek. Unfortunately, the man made infrastructure that dots the park, though helping with accessibility, takes away from the parks natural beauty.

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