First guests make their way to the park since March
With the west entrance and lower parking lot closed at Starved Rock State Park due to flooding, the first visitors made their way through the Route 71 entrance — and the day went pretty smoothly, officials said.
While some state parks opened earlier this month, Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks opened for the first time Friday since March. The parks draw roughly 3 million visitors per year — about 544,000 visitors alone between March 1 and June 1 in a normal year.
The morning was a little quiet, but the parking started to fill up near noon. There were no closures due to the park exceeding its capacity. If the park reaches its capacity for visitors or parking, it will close temporarily until numbers decrease — a possibility this weekend.
“We had a pretty good opening day,” said Conservation Police Sgt. Phil Wire. “It wasn’t too packed. We had no problems with opening day issues. There were some that went off the trail and over some barricades, but that was it.”
Flooding still is restricting access to some areas of the park, and other areas of the park are open, but still muddy. Superintendent Alvin Harper said visitors should dress appropriately.
The Visitor Center is closed.
The Trailheads Concessions, however, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for hungry hikers. Carry-out orders can be placed at the counter and outdoor dining is available on the patio.
The Starved Rock Lodge now is open. Carry-out food service and outdoor dining are offered on the Lodge’s Veranda for paying customers of Starved Rock Lodge. Picnicking will not be allowed on the Veranda but is allowed on the pool patio.
• Matthiessen State Park lower dells area (access to the waterfalls) is closed due to flooding. Upper dells remain open as well as Vermillion River Area trails (second entrance south off of 178).
• Matthiessen horseback trails are closed due to conditions from the weather.
• Starved Rock-Tonti Canyon is closed (indefinitely due to hazardous conditions).
• Starved Rock, Red River trail is now open but will be muddy, dress appropriately.
• The west entrance and boat ramp area as well as lower parking lot will remain closed at Starved Rock until floodwaters recede. All visitors must enter through the south entrance off of Route 71 to access Starved Rock State Park. Kayak rental will be open at Lonepoint Shelter off of Route 71 on the east end of the park.