Description - *This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*
Illini State Park is the kind of park you think of when you think of big picnics and family gatherings. With its rustic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings and riverside picnic areas, Illini State Park offers beautiful views and a sense of history not found in many other parks.
Named for the native Americans who once inhabited the area, Illini State Park is located south of the Illinois River from Marseilles and U.S. Route 6. The northern edge of the 510-acre park is bordered by the Great Falls of the Illinois River. In just two miles, the river drops three feet, creating beautiful roaring rapids. The east end of the park is the former site of the prestigious Marsatawa Country Club.
Several reminders of America's Industrial Age can be seen at Illini State Park. The area is part of an old glacial feature called the Marseilles Moraine and is underlaid by 100 feet of coal. A large coal mine one mile south of the park supplied coal to Marseilles industries until World War II. The Illinois Traction System, an interurban electric transit system that ran from Chicago to Princeton, was one of those industries. The Marseilles powerhouse for the ITS can still be seen on the north bank of the river.
Less than one mile north of the park is the historic Illinois-Michigan Canal, which was completed in 1848, when the section from Marseilles to Morris opened. The I & M Canal carried the area's commerce until the railroads became the transportation giants.
Although the Illinois River rapids are wonderful to watch, they made barge traffic difficult. In the mid-1920s, the Army Corps of Engineers built a barge canal to bypass the rapids. The canal borders the park on the north, and visitors can watch as large barges pass by the park and through the Marseilles Locks.
The prestigious Marsatawa Country Club once graced the east end of the park. Organized by Ottawa resident W.D. Boyce, who also founded the Boy Scouts of America, the club boasted one of the premier golf courses of its day.
In the 1930s, two companies of the Civilian Conservation Corps converted the golf course to a park and built park buildings that are still in use today. The former country club building was moved into Marseilles and serves as the American Legion Hall.
The CCC camp at the west end of the park was converted into a semi-correctional boys' camp that provided maintenance in the park until it was closed in the late 1960s.
Illini entered the state park system in 1934 and was dedicated in 1935.
- Natural Features-
Hickory, ash, walnut, elm, cottonwood, oak and maple trees provide shady coolness in the summer and beautiful colors in the fall. Spring is highlighted by blooming wildflowers, Whitetail deer, squirrels, possum, beavers, raccoon, groundhogs, and a variety of waterfowl and songbirds can be seen during all seasons.
There is something for every type of camper at Illini State Park. Both tent and trailer sites, including electric and sanitation service, are offered and some of the sites offer breathtaking views of the river. A youth area is available for youth groups and should be reserved in advance through the site office. All campers should obtain permits from the site staff or campground host upon arrival.
Hikers will enjoy exploring the park and its many scenic and historic offerings. Open fields, a baseball diamond and numerous horseshoe pits provide additional recreational opportunities. A concession stand has food and drink in the warmer months.
Recreation - Boating and Fishing-
Anglers will find ample supplies of crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, carp, bullheads and many other species in the Illinois River. A boat ramp is available for visitors' boats, but rental boats are not available. Although there is no motor limit on the Illinois River, boaters should be aware of the danger of barge traffic and the close proximity of the Marseilles Lock and Dam.
Illini State Park is the perfect place for winter fun. An ice skating pool and hills ideal for sledding provide hardy outdoor enjoyment. A shelter offers a comfortable setting for warming fingers and toes after a winter workout.
Scattered throughout the park are picnic areas and shelters with tables, outdoor grills, drinking water, toilets and playgrounds. Several of the shelters also have working fireplaces.
Climate - Illinois experiences four distinct seasons with varying weather throughout the year. Winter can be very cold. The highest humidity of the year occurs during this season averaging 70 to 75 percent. Average low temperatures in January dip to 20 degrees F with highs near 35 degrees F. Spring temperatures are mild with humidity below 70 percent. Temperatures during this season average between 32 and 50 degrees F. Summer is usually hot and humid in this Midwest state. Low temperatures remain in the low sixties with high temperatures near 90 degrees F. The highest rainfall of the year occurs during the summer months. Fall is an excellent time to visit the state with low humidity and rainfall and moderate temperatures.
Illini State Park is located south of the Illinois River from Marseilles and U.S. Route 6.