Description - *This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*
The Native American pathfinders along the rock palisades of the Mississippi River did as present-day hikers do - in coursing the bluffs, they took the paths of least resistance. The trails at the Mississippi Palisades, especially the park’s southern routes, puts you in touch with the past. Walk them and you’ll trace the footsteps of all those who came before you, some of whom came this way nearly a thousand years ago.
Located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois, the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park is rich in American Indian history.
- Natural Features-
Palisades is the word used to describe a line of lofty, steep cliffs usually seen along a river, and Mississippi Palisades, 3 miles north of Savanna in Carroll County, handsomely lives up to its name. Caves are evident as are dangerous sink holes-limestone caves that go straight down. Erosion has carved intriguing rock formations, including Indian Head, with its aquiline characteristics, and Twin Sisters, a pair of humanoid figures on the bluff tops. The U.S. Interior Department recognized the remarkable nature of this area when in 1973 it designated acreage here as a national landmark.
Wooded ravines, whose brilliant hues splash the cliffs with color each autumn, dissect the unglaciated terrain. Ferns, dot the deep ravines, while in the park’s northern region, leaves of the white birch ripple in the wind. Each spring and summer the valleys and slopes are dappled with the blooms of trillium, bluebell, lobelia, shooting star and yellow ladies’ slipper.
Animal life, within the park and the river areas immediately adjoining it, is varied. Waterfowl and shorebirds are numerous, as are wild turkeys. Striking pileated woodpeckers make their home in the park, and depending on ice conditions, eagles feed at the river in January and February. Because so many birds migrate along the river, their lyrical songs can be heard at the Mississippi Palisades each spring and fall.
But not all that’s fascinating about Mississippi Palisades’ wildlife is in the skies. White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, skunk, muskrat and weasel can be viewed in the park, as can mink, gray and red fox, woodchuck and, even occasionally, badger.
With 241 Class A and B sites in both shaded and open areas, Mississippi Palisades is in demand by campers. Electrical hookups are available at 110 sites. Showers and flush toilets are situated in three buildings and are in operation from May 1 until Oct 31. You can pick up supplies at a camp convenience store, open during the summer. The campground also features water and two sanitary dump stations. Only campers with permits are allowed in the campground, with admittance prohibited from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Reservations are no longer being taken for the Class A and B sites at Mississippi Palisades.
Two youth camping areas are also available. These may be reserved from June 1 through October 31. An adult must accompany every group of 15 minors. Any group of 25 or more must get permission from the site personnel before entering the park.
Recreation - Trails-
The gateway to seeing the park’s impressive assortment of plant and animal life is its rugged 13-mile trail system. The five trails in the northern part of the park are generally wider and less strenuous than the five in the south, which are narrow and extremely close to the bluff. The southern trails also are very hazardous when wet.
The North System includes High Point Trail at 3.5 miles and Aspen at 1.9 miles. Sentinel Trail, at 1.2 miles including spurs, is the South System’s longest hike, but it and other southern loops aren’t for the tenderfoot. Ozzie’s Point, Louis’ Point and Lookout Point, four developed overlooks accessible by short walks, offer a surfaced trail leading to an overlook. Oak Point offers a trail surface suitable for the physically challenged.
Fishing and Boating -
With the Mississippi River and its backwaters the perfect habitat for so many kinds of fish, anglers are consistently baiting their hooks at Mississippi Palisades. Catfish and carp are the most commonly caught fish, but bluegill, crappie and bass are out there too. Those long on experience might even land walleye and northern pike. There are no motor size limits on boats, and launching ramps at the river access areas are free.
Hunters gather at the park each year for archery and firearm hunting for deer and wild turkey. During the three-day shotgun deer season, the campground, day use area and hiking trails are closed. Contact the park office for specific information. Hunter Fact Sheet
Throw a checkered tablecloth across one of the park’s many picnic tables and enjoy one of summer’s simple pleasures. Playgrounds and toilets are convenient to the picnic areas. The shelter houses and drinking fountains in the park attest to the 1930's craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Three shelters are available to groups of 25 or more on a reservation basis.
Don’t let a little cold weather keep you form visiting the park. Mississippi Palisades offers cross-country skiing and sledding for outdoor enthusiasts. Anglers aren’t left out in the cold either-or maybe they are-because ice fishing is allowed at the boat launch area when the ice is thick enough.
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.
From I-90, exit at US Rt. 20 west (Galena/Freeport exit). From Rt. 20, turn south on Rt. 84. The park is located 18 miles from Rt. 20.
From I-80, exit on Rt. 84 and travel north approximately 50 miles to reach the park which is located three miles north of Savanna.