In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe upriver from here, was slain by an Illiniwek while attending a tribal council in southern Illinois. According to the legend, during one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge his killing, a band of Illiniwek, under attack by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte. The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless Illiniwek died of starvation- giving rise to the name “Starved Rock.”
That's right. Starved Rock State Park has a large number of carved statues. They're located around the Lodge Parking Lot. Eagles, Bears, and an assortment of people and creatures. Normally, only the lodge and cabin guest see them, but the area is open to the public and you're welcome to come up and browse through the offerings.
Near Starved Rock, you can visit a number of overlooks that look out over the Illinois River. Many of them have plenty of standing room and even some benches. Lover's Leap gives you a good view of Starved Rock itself, while Eagle Cliff Overlook gives a good shot of the river and forest backdrop.
Two of the last parking lots of the park have the trailhead to Council Overhang, Ottawa Canyon, and Kaskaskia Canyon. Council Overhang is at the point of the fork in the trail between the two canyons. This is a large amphitheater carved in the rock over time. It's about a half mile, flat round trip hike from the parking area.
There are several parking areas near Starved Rock itself, but you can also drive east on Route 71 to a few other parking areas which will provide easier access to some of the canyons. While the trails near Starved Rock are very well marked and maintained, some of the trails further east can be slightly confusing. We accidentally climbed a fairly steep hill because that's what the trail seemed to indicate, but it turned out if we had simply walked 25 feet further around the bend, the trail would have become clear again. In any case, there's a steep staircase leading from the Parkman's Plain parking area, then it's a flat 3/4 mile or so to LaSalle Canyon. This canyon has a pretty cool "double waterfall" that you can walk under the first part of.
Legend has it that a band of Illiniwek fell under attack from a group of Potawatomi Indians, who drove the Illiniwek to the top of this butte. The Illiniwek were surrounded and eventually succumbed to starvation at the top of the hill.
There's a short, somewhat steep trail to the top of Starved Rock, where a marker stands. You can get a scenic view of the Rock from across the inlet at the Lover's Leap Overlook.