When Is the Best Time
The best time to visit Starved Rock State Park for spotting the eagles is in January and February. The most comfortable weather conditions can be experienced between April and September.
However, Starved Rock is a magical year-round destination for hiking and sightseeing. In summer it’s very special to see the waterfalls after a hard rain, in winter when the falls are frozen.
Spring offers the beauty of wildflowers. Fall shows its beauty with yellow, golden, and red leaves that are present on the trails.
Opening Hours | What Time Does Starved Rock Open
Starved Rock State Park and its trails are open from 6:30 a.m. until sunset throughout the year. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Monday - Sunday).
However, the Visitor Center exhibit hall, park office, and the information desk are only open from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. (Monday - Friday). Always check the official site with potential temporary closures: Starved Rock State Park - Illinois.
Weather | Seasons
The climate of Starved Rock State Park is fairly typical of Illinois, with warm summer temperatures and winters which are dominated by cold, often snowy conditions. The height of summer can sometimes bring very muggy weather and this can make the conditions uncomfortable for physical activities such as hiking.
The summer season is also the wettest, with a high chance of thunderstorms. One benefit to this is that the wet weather results in many waterfalls forming among the park’s canyons and these can make for some impressive views. Precipitation is much lower during the winter, however, a few waterfalls usually remain and they are known to freeze solid on occasion.
The spring months are generally characterized by warming temperatures and moderate rainfall, with the conditions being perfect for wildflowers to bloom in large numbers. Spring can therefore be a very attractive time to visit, although the same can be said for the fall months when the trees react to the cooling temperatures by turning beautiful shades of orange and red. Fall in Starved Rock State Park is a time of moderate rainfall, but there are often clear days with high levels of sunshine.
January in Starved Rock State Park is a cold month and there is a high chance of freezing temperatures and snow. Suitable winter clothing is recommended, with average highs of -2ºC (29ºF) and average lows of -11ºC (12ºF). Precipitation is at its lowest.
During February, Starved Rock remains cold, with average highs of 2ºC (36ºF) and average lows of -8ºC (18ºF). Precipitation is also low and this month is one of the best times of year to see the park’s bald eagles.
In March, the weather in Starved Rock State Park can be at its windiest, with occasional stormy days. Despite this, the temperatures begin to rise as spring approaches. You can expect average highs of 8ºC (47ºF) and average lows of -2ºC (28ºF).
April in Starved Rock State Park is usually comfortable, with average highs of 16ºC (61ºF) and average lows of 3ºC (38ºF). There is a 30% daily chance of precipitation, but this is the first month of the year when it is unlikely to fall as snow.
During May, Starved Rock is blessed by warm conditions. The average high during this month is 23ºC (73ºF) and the average low is 9ºC (49ºF), meaning there are chilly mornings but warm afternoons. May is usually one of the wettest months.
In June, the weather in Starved Rock State Park is warm and humid, with average highs of 2ºC (82ºF) and average lows of -8ºC (59ºF). The chance of rainfall during this month is at its highest and it’s a good idea to come prepared for this scenario.
July in Starved Rock State Park is when the temperatures are at their hottest. The average high is 29ºC (85ºF) and the average low is 17ºC (63ºF), with the high humidity levels making for unpleasant conditions on some days.
During August, the weather in the park is often characterised by late afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures are hot, with average highs of 28ºC (83ºF) and average lows of 16ºC (61ºF). Wind speeds are at their lowest.
In September, conditions in Starved Rock State Park are usually good, with some of the highest numbers of sunny days of any month. On top of this, temperatures are pleasant with average highs of 24ºC (76ºF) and average lows of 11ºC (52ºF).
October in Starved Rock State Park is a time of climate transition, with the weather becoming cooler and drier. The average high is 18ºC (65ºF) and the average low is 5ºC (41ºF). Unlike in previous months, humidity levels are usually comfortable.
During November, Starved Rock State Park is once again brought cold weather and wintry conditions. The average high is 9ºC (48ºF) and the average low is -1ºC (30ºF), however sunny days are common.
In December, the weather in Starved Rock State Park becomes very cold and it’s a good idea to dress in warm clothing. The average high is 2ºC (36ºF) and the average low is -8ºC (18ºF). With the onset of winter, many bald eagles begin to arrive in the park.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The park is less busy in the winter months (December, January, February). Otherwise, it’s often heavily crowded in spring, summer, and fall. Even more on weekends and national holidays. To beat the crowds: Avoid weekends and be there early. The visitor center opens at 9 AM but you can arrive and park earlier.
The parking lots usually fill until 11 a.m. in the peak season and on weekends. When full they get closed and open again in the afternoon around 3 p.m. Be early if you don't plan to stay one night. Another way to avoid the crowds is to hit the trails that are not located in the main hub. The park is large and has many trails where you can ‘hike away’.
Bird Watching Months | Eagles
Every year, thousands of eagles migrate to the area, they come for the fish found in the cold waters of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The birds begin arriving in late December and stay until March. To spot the eagles and be on the safe side visit in January or February. Park administration says, that depending on the weather, most of the birds are gone in March already.
As one of the most iconic birds of North America, the bald eagle is also one of the largest, with a wingspan averaging over 2 meters. Bald eagles are powerful predators with a strong taste for fish – a preference that brings them to the Illinois River in large numbers.
Hotels near Starved Rock State Park
We highly recommend staying one night in a hotel near Starved Rock State Park. That way you can avoid the crowds during the busy months and weekends. Also, it takes away the headache of dealing with full parking lots (see above), as you can arrive much earlier.
The closest place is Utica (check the map below). The most booked hotel and our absolute favorite is the Starved Rock Lodge (via booking.com with best-price guarantee). Also close are Oglesby and Peru.
Where and Tips
At least in the northern parts of Illinois, it can be challenging to find a spot to hike with rigor. Starved Rock offers visitors many ways to encounter the great outdoors. It's best known for being a prime spot to view North American Bald Eagles. For details on your best chance of seeing the eagles, visit this site: http://www.starvedrockstatepark.org/activity/eagle-watching/
Historically, The park derives its name from a Native American legend of Starved Rock. In the 1760's, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe, was attending a tribal council meeting, at this council of the Illinois and the Pottawatomie, Kinebo, the head chief of the Illinois tribe stabbed Chief Pontiac. Vengeance arose in Pontiac’s followers. A great battle started. The Illinois, fearing death, took refuge on the great rock. After many days, the remaining Illinois died of starvation giving this historic park its name – Starved Rock.
There are 16 miles of well-marked hiking trails, where you can view waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons. The lodge on the premises boasts several massive fireplaces in common areas to warm up in between hikes or stay overnight in one of their onsite cabins (including pet-friendly cabins) or in their historic lodge. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the present-day Lodge during the 1930s; its white pine logs were brought from Indiana. Besides building the Lodge, the CCC built many stairways, shelters, and bridges in the park.