Buffalo Rock State Park
1300 North 27th Road
Ottawa, IL 61350
Buffalo Rock State Park is located on a bluff
which was once an island in the Illinois River. Now
standing majestically on the north bank, this
promontory affords a magnificent sweeping view of
the Illinois River. Located approximately three
miles west of Ottawa in LaSalle County, this 298
acre park has long been a favorite picnic area, as
well as a nature lovers delight.
The area of Buffalo Rock was the home of the
Illinois Indians when Louis Jolliet, the French
explorer, and the Jesuit missionary priest Father
Jacques Marquette made their trip up the Illinois
River in 1673. Later the Illinois Tribe was
virtually annihilated in protracted warfare with the
Buffalo Rock is said to have served the French as
an early military, trading and missionary post.
LaSalle and Tonty, after building Fort St. Louis on
Starved Rock during the winter of 1882-1883 gathered
almost 4,000 Indian warriors at the front of Buffalo
Rock and formed a confederation against the
Iroquois. Among the tribes in the confederation were
the Miami who built their own fort on Buffalo Rock.
Through the many years that followed, Buffalo
Rock was used by a religious sect as a place for
holding camp meetings, and still later was used as a
site for a tuberculosis sanatorium. The Crane
Company of Chicago purchased Buffalo Rock in 1912
and for a period of about 16 years maintained a
sanatorium for sick employees and a summer vacation
ground for thousands of employees and their
In 1927 the Crane Company moved their recreation
park to a larger area and donated the land to the
state to become a park. The deed to the property was
turned over to the State of Illinois on November 15,
1928, with the provision that it would become a
permanent state park and that the caretaker, Robert
Barnett, who was then 72 years of age, be retained
in that capacity during the remainder of his
lifetime as a reward for his loyal services.
Titled "Effigy Tumuli" in tribute to
the Native American burial grounds that inspired it,
this unique "earth art" depicts five
sculptures native to the Illinois River. The Effigy
Tumuli was the vision of artist Michael Heizer who
created the sculptures of a snake, turtle, catfish,
frog and a water strider. To better appreciate the
sculptures, it is best to look first from a distance
and then walk around on top of them to better
understand the effigies.
The picnic areas that are shaded by mature oak,
hickory and walnut trees provide the perfect setting
for a family picnic or special outdoor occasion.
Picnic tables and cooking grills are provided.
Drinking water and restroom facilities are located
near both shelters.
The larger of the two shelters complete with a
large stone fireplace may be reserved, the smaller
shelter is on a first-come, first-serve basis. A
playground area is located by the large shelter and
a baseball diamond is located near the center of the
park. A great game of horseshoes can also be enjoyed
during your visit.
Two American bison call Buffalo Rock home. Their
pen and grazing area is located across from the
baseball diamond and they can be seen daily.
The River Bluff Trail offers a walk high above
the Illinois River with two observation decks with
spectacular views of the Illinois River. The
Woodland Trail provides an opportunity for close-up
of the trees, plants and wildlife prospering in the
I&M Canal State Trail Access
Just across the road from Buffalo Rock State park
is the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail
Buffalo Rock Access area. This area provides parking
for approximately seven vehicles. Water and restroom
facilities are not available at this site.
There are three primitive camping areas along the
trail between Buffalo Rock and Utica. The campsites
have fire rings but no water or restroom facilities
are available. Sites are accessible by walk or bike
in only, no vehicular access is allowed. One of the
camping areas designed for youth camping has a
shelter with a fireplace. Permits must be obtained
from Buffalo Rock State Park prior to camping.
From Ottawa: From Rte. 6 turn south on W.D. Boyce
Memorial Dr. Continue on Boyce to Ottawa Ave. and
turn right. Proceed on Ottawa Ave., which becomes
Dee Bennett Rd for approximately three miles, the
park is located on the left and the I&M Canal
Access area is on the right.
From Utica: Take Dee Bennett Rd. east five miles
to Buffalo Rock.
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