Hey - is there anything to do around here? You bet there is! Seneca lies in a historic area of Illinois filled with scenic state parks. The parks take advantage of the Illinois and Michigan (I&M) Canal, the Illinois River, and the Vermillion River. The rivers have carved many bluffs and canyons that offer beautiful scenery regardless of the season. Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks add beautiful waterfalls to their many scenic canyons and bluffs. These parks feature hiking trails, paddle rentals, boat rides, and even lodging and dining. The I&M Canal itself has a trail suitable for hiking, biking, or snowmobiling. The Vermillion River offers exciting water sports activities during the spring and early summer when you can actually go white water rafting or kayaking on Class II-III rapids with some great scenery. And the area boasts an abundance of reasonably priced golf courses for the avid duffer. For the little ones, Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort near Starved Rock State park boasts a water park along with a number of activity, dining, and lodging opportunities.
Morris lies at the eastern edge of the I&M Canal and Illinois River recreational corridor. It offers access to both attractions via two strategically places Illinois State Parks.
William G. Stratton State Park – This park provides an excellent facility for boat and personal water craft (PWC) launching during the boating season but it can get crowded on the weekends at the multiple boat ramps. The four boat ramps can handle just about any sized boat and there is an additional area to launch PWCs. Indeed, many people begin their boating weekend at the ramps at this park.
Gebhard Woods State Park – This is a good place to start your snowmobiling trek on the I&M Canal in the winter. This park features a neat aquaduct where the I&M Canal passes over the Nettle Creek (Ottawa is home to a much larger aqueduct where the I&M Canal passes over the Fox River). You can also view the old I&M Canal Lock #8.
The town of Seneca has a beautiful public boat ramp that includes two long, gradual concrete ramps. It is perfect for large boats as the ramps extend far into the water and the ends of the ramps are clearly marked. There is plenty of trailer parking You can gas your boat up in Seneca at the Clark, Citgo, Casey's or BP gas stations on your way to the ramp. The ramp is located east off of Main Street (Route 170) just north of the Seneca Bridge.
Seneca has the only remaining grain elevator on the I&M Canal. The M. J. Hogan Grain Elevator is located west of Main Street on the north side of the I&M Canal.
Seneca is also the former location of the Landing Ship Tank (LST) shipyard where 157 of the LSTs were built.
On May 21, 2005 a monument was unveiled in Seneca dedicated to all the workers who toiled at the Seneca “Prairie Shipyard” as well as all those who served on any LST during World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. This LST Memorial can be visited at Crotty Park.
And Seneca offers access to the I&M Canal – it crosses through the middle of town just north of the Casey’s not far from the historic Hogan Grain Elevator.
This town, just west of Seneca, offers access to the Illini State Park. This Park has boat ramp access to the Illinois River as well as camping and fishing opportunities. The park borders on the Marseilles barge canal and lock offering an opportunity to see barges in action.
Marseilles is also the home of a facility for off-road, four wheeling:
The Cliffs Insane Terrain Off-Road Park
And, Marseilles is the home of The Middle Eastern Conflicts Wall Memorial. The Memorial sits along the southern bank of the Illinois River just west of the Marseilles’ Dam.
This historic city offers much in the way of dining and close recreational attractions. Ottawa overlooks the confluence of the Fox and Illinois Rivers and offers a pleasant river walk that brings you right to the river's edge.
The Scouting Museum is located in Ottawa. It promotes and preserves the colorful and proud traditions of Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting and Camp Fire, via memorabilia from its vast collection.
At the western edge of Ottawa along Boyce Memorial Drive overlooking the Illinois River is the scenic Ottawa Avenue Cemetery. Buried here is W.D. Boyce. This Chicago publisher built a home in Ottawa in 1902. He gained fame in 1910 when he founded the Boy Scouts of America. The Boyce Memorial Statue erected near his gravesite in 1941 is an annual pilgrimage site for many boy scouts. .
Utica is turning into somewhat of a recreational mecca. Utica lies right outside the door of Starved Rock State Park. This Park has it all: a beautiful lodge, restaurant, bar, pool, boat access, paddling rentals, views, hiking trails, waterfalls, canyons, etc., etc., etc. During the winter months, Starved Rock is home to dozens of Bald Eagles who feed on fish from the Illinois River. Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center is the only lodging facility actually located on the Starved Rock State Park grounds. The Lodge features an indoor pool complex, restaurant, bar, and fireplace activity room, guest rooms, and cabins. Check their website for upcoming events.
Right next to Starved Rock State Park is Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort. This resort offers Grand Bear Falls, indoor water park, and indoor amusement park.
Matthiessen State Park features two separate areas. The Upper Dells is the first area you will encounter and it includes Deer Park Lake and Cascade Falls, where the canyon drops 45 feet with a waterfall. You have to leave this area and drive a mile south to the Lower Dell, which lies along the Vermillion River.
If you leave the Park and travel a little further south along Route 178, you will run into Vermillion River Rafting. This little company rents rafts for a fun run along the Vermillion River during the spring and early summer months when the swollen river offers thrill seekers the chance to run Class II-III w