Photo by Brian Greenberg

Getting outdoors is fundamental as well as good fun, as we explored in a recent myth-busting article. But there’s no need to be literally starved for outdoor fun. Starved Rock State Park celebrated both its 100th anniversary and a record number of visitors this year, according to a recent article in the LaSalle News-Tribune. With 2,181,083 hikers and explorers busting down the gates in 2011 alone, the park served as a close and economical alternative this year for Chicagoans and others looking for an outdoor staycation.

So why now? In November, park officials released two bald eagles that had been rescued in May, and they’re still drawing in new visitors as the park starts up its bald eagle-themed trolley tours. Last year’s wet spring may have deterred a few guests, but a mild January and less-than-scorching June both brought in record monthly numbers.

In addition to the eagle trolley tours, there are lots of planned park activities to keep us coming:

  • January 14-15 is Wilderness Weekend, which includes a dog sled demonstration on the 15th.
  • January 28-29 is the park’s official eagle watching weekend.
  • Other fun activities: cross country skiing, ice climbing, and picnicking year-round. Frozen water falls, called ice falls, occupy 14 of the park’s 18 canyons.

The park’s website says that the many visitors have worn down the ground in the park by at least 18 inches. Starved Rock Lodge (near, but not officially affiliated with the State Park) Director of Marketing Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek says, in the News-Tribune article:

“…I’m confident that first-time visitors will come back again. My hope is that they take a guided hike to learn the safe way to travel the park and enjoy the beauty with respect for its preservation.”

So get out there and enjoy! We’ll be taking our skis out once we actually get snow.

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