Heading into a busy holiday weekend, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police officers are reminding visitors to Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks to obey no-parking zones and to have a backup plan should parks reach capacity before they arrive.
“Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks are extremely busy on normal weekends, but crowds increase significantly during holiday weekends. Visitors need to remember we will close the parks when they reach capacity, so they should have an alternate park in mind should the parks be at capacity when they arrive,” said Capt. Laura Petreikis of the Illinois Conservation Police. “If they are able to get in, parking restrictions and no-parking zones will be enforced, meaning owners risk having their vehicles towed if they park outside of designated areas.”
To encourage appropriate social distancing and other public heath directives inside the parks, both Starved Rock State Park and Matthiessen State Park will not allow additional visitors to enter the parks once all parking lots reach capacity. Parking is not allowed in areas within the parks that are not designated for parking.
Additionally, visitors should not park on the sides of Routes 178 or 71, or any other roads surrounding the parks or in construction zones. Visitors to Starved Rock Lodge still will be able to enter through the park’s south entrance, provided they have their lodge pass.
Starved Rock State Park’s south entrance on Route 71 and west entrance on Route 178 are open to the public. With increased traffic and traffic backups leading to congestion on state routes and Interstate 80, Conservation Police officers are urging park visitors to use alternate routes when driving to the parks.
Visitors arriving from the east on Interstate 80 should consider exiting at Ottawa before reaching Utica, crossing the Illinois River and approaching the park from the east on Illinois Route 71. Motorists also can exit south on Interstate 39 and take the Route 71 exit at Oglesby. Visitors also should have alternate plans if the park has reached capacity and has been temporarily closed when they arrive.
Temporary park closures are not new to Starved Rock or Matthiessen. The heaviest traffic congestion and likely times for park closures occur on weekends between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Rather than lose a day of outdoor fun to traffic and potential closures, visitors are encouraged to discover some of northern Illinois’ lesser-known state parks, such as Buffalo Rock, Illini, Lowden, Rock Cut, Castle Rock or White Pines Forest, or Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area.
When visiting any state park, fish and wildlife area, recreational area or historic site, visitors are reminded to bring hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol as well as a face covering for use in common areas or in case social distancing cannot be achieved on the trails.
For information and public health directives, visit the IDNR website at https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/closures/Pages/ParksOpenDuringCoVID19.aspx.
Visitors can monitor the status of Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks on Illinois Department of Natural Resources Facebook pages and IDNR Twitter feeds as well as through Shaw Media.