Buffalo Rock State Park

Buffalo Rock State Park




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Buffalo Rock State Park in Ottawa, Illinois has easy hiking trails for beginners.

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 aggressive Iroquois.

Effigy Tumuli

Executed by artist Michael Heizer, mounds representing five earthen sculptures molded from Illinois clay, known as Effigy Tumuli, invite visitors to walk around and explore. As a tribute to the ancient Native American tradition of sculpting massive plant and animal forms along with their burial mounds (called tumuli), Heizer used heavy equipment to sculpt 5 animal images: a water strider, a turtle, a catfish (770 feet long), a frog (140 feet long), and a snake (2,070 feet long). All five subjects, including a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and insect are native to the Illinois River area.


The Buffalo Rock State Park 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. The site has two shelters with drinking water, and restroom facilities are located near both. The larger of the two shelters has a large stone fireplace and may be reserved. The smaller shelter is available on a first-come, first-served basis. A playground area is located by the large shelter and a baseball diamond is near the center of the park. A great game of horseshoes also can be enjoyed during your visit.


Three American bison call Buffalo Rock home. Their pen and grazing area is located across from the baseball diamond and these magnificent native mammals can be seen daily.


The Buffalo Rock State Park River Bluff Trail offers a walk high above the Illinois River, with two observation decks providing spectacular views of the Illinois River. The Woodland Trail provides an opportunity to examine and appreciate the trees, plants and wildlife prospering in the park.

I&M Canal State Trail Access

Across the road from Buffalo Rock State Park is the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail Buffalo Rock Access area, providing parking for approximately seven vehicles. Water and restroom facilities are not available at the trail parking lot/access area, but can be found at the park.


Three primitive camping areas exist along the trail between Buffalo Rock and Utica for open camping. Each primitive campsite has a fire ring (no water or restroom facilities are available). Sites are accessible by walk-in or bike-in only; no vehicular access is allowed. One of the camping areas designed for youth camping has a shelter with a fireplace. Campsites cannot be reserved in advance at this site.

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