It's 94 miles to this bit of nature Starved Rock, Ill. By Susy SchultzPhoto courtesy of the State of Illinois You can spend your time on horseback or canoeing on the Illinois River when you spend time in Starved Rock.
When you are in an urban area, it's hard to believe nature is not far. But it's true. In Illinois, we have Starved Rock State Park alongside the Illinois River.
There, you can feel part of the outdoors, even count bald eagles in the winter. You can hike through the forest to view incredible rock formations and waterfalls, as well as ride horses, fish, canoe and camp.
You can also find luxury at the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center, a 1930s stone and log building located within the state park.
But more importantly, you can find a little peace and quiet-94 miles southwest of the Chicago city limits.
Over the years, when either my two boys-now 14 and 11-or I needed fresh air and the outdoors, we headed to Starved Rock-no matter the season.
Sometimes, it's been a day of hiking; other times, it's been a long weekend, to really get the city out of our system. Once, when I went for a week-long conference, I discovered this was a nice relaxing getaway for adults, as well.
It was even a lovely venue for my cousin who had her wedding there.
The centerpiece to the entire area is nature. The state park is 2,630 acres of forests with 18 canyons and waterfalls
Hiking through there, the boys and I were in dreamland. I was at peace. My 11-year-old was engrossed in snakes and bugs. My 14-year-old was retracing a murder mystery-the 1960 Starved Rock Murders.
Three wealthy Chicago suburban women were left dead in a cave. A man who worked in the lodge's kitchen was then tried. The whole thing was a national media frenzy.
I wouldn't have thought this was something to promote, but we bought a book on it in the lodge gift store and we were all intrigued.
Still, this area is haunted by many ghosts. The name Starved Rock recalls a battle in the 1760s between Native American tribes. Legend has it that one tribe cornered another atop the 125-foot sandstone butte and held them there until they died of starvation. Beauty has a price.
Today, you can recall the horror amidst the beauty.
The lodge is beautiful, with a choice of cabins or rooms and a great main room with a fireplace-a place to sit with the kids at night and tell stories. However, it is the most expensive place in the area. Check the Heritage Corridor Convention and Tourism Bureau's Web site for alternatives.
Just the facts Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center www.starvedrocklodge.com (800) 868-ROCK
Heritage Corridor Convention and Tourism Bureau www.flocktotherock.com/activities.htm (800) 746-0550
Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent.