“a peaceful nature getaway”
Illini State Park is the type 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 between 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 2 miles, the river drops 3 feet, creating beautiful, roaring rapids. The east end of the park is the former site of the prestigious Marsatawa Country Club. 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, White-tailed deer, squirrels, opossums, beavers, raccoon, groundhogs and a variety of waterfowl and songbirds can be seen throughout the year. 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 1 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 1 mile north of the park is the historic Illinois-Michigan Canal, 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 U.S. 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 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 constructed buildings still in use today. The former country club building was moved into Marseilles and serves as the American Legion Hall.
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Illini State Park
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