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  Mississippi Palisades - State Park   

   
Northwest Region

16327A IL Rte. 84
Savanna, IL 61074 
815.273.2731
E-mail
Boating Hunting Trails
Camping Natural Features Winter Sports
Directions Picnicking  
Fishing Site Brochure
   

The Native American pathfinders along the rock palisades of the Mississippi River did as present-day hikers do -- in coursing the bluffs, they took the paths of least resistance. The trails at the Mississippi Palisades, especially the park’s southern routes, put you in touch with the past. Walk them and you’ll trace the footsteps of all those who came before you, some of whom came this way nearly a thousand years ago.

Located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois, the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park is rich in American Indian history.

Natural Features

Palisades is the word used to describe a line of lofty, steep cliffs usually seen along a river, and Mississippi Palisades, 3 miles north of Savanna in Carroll County, handsomely lives up to its name. Caves are evident as are dangerous sink holes--limestone caves that go straight down. Erosion has carved intriguing rock formations, including Indian Head, with its aquiline characteristics, and Twin Sisters, a pair of humanoid figures on the bluff tops. The U.S. Interior Department recognized the remarkable nature of this area in 1973 when it designated acreage here as a national landmark.

Wooded ravines, whose brilliant hues splash the cliffs with color each autumn, dissect the unglaciated terrain. Ferns dot the deep ravines, while in the park’s northern region, white birch leaves of ripple in the wind. Each spring and summer the valleys and slopes are dappled with the blooms of trillium, bluebell, lobelia, shooting star and yellow ladies’ slipper.

Animal life, within the park and the river areas immediately adjoining it, is varied. Waterfowl and shorebirds are numerous, as are wild turkeys. Striking pileated woodpeckers make their home in the park, and depending on ice conditions, eagles feed at the river in January and February. Because so many birds migrate along the river, their lyrical songs can be heard at the Mississippi Palisades each spring.

But not all that’s fascinating about Mississippi Palisades’ wildlife is in the skies. White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, skunk, muskrat and weasel can be viewed in the park, as can mink, gray and red fox, woodchuck and, occasionally, badger.

Trails

The gateway to seeing the park’s impressive assortment of plant and animal life is its rugged 15-mile trail system. The five trails in the northern part of the park are generally wider and less strenuous than the five in the south, which are narrow and extremely close to the bluff. The southern trails are hazardous when wet.

The North System includes High Point Trail at 3.5 miles and Aspen at 1.9 miles. Sentinel Trail the 1.2 miles, including spurs, is the South System’s longest hike, but it and other southern loops are not for the tenderfoot. Ozzie’s Point, Louis’ Point and Lookout Point, three developed overlooks accessible by short walks, offer a surfaced trail leading to an overlook. Oak Point offers a trail surface suitable for the physically challenged.

Hiking trails are closed during the park’s three-day firearm deer season, which is the 3 day weekend before Thanksgiving Day weekend. Information and maps are available at the park office as well as on this web page.

Camping

With 241 Class A and B sites in both shaded and open areas, Mississippi Palisades is in demand by campers. Electrical hookups are available at 110 sites. Showers and flush toilets are situated in three buildings and are in operation from May 1 until Oct. 31. Pick up forgotten supplies at a camp convenience store, open during the summer. The campground also features water and two sanitary dump stations. Only campers with permits are allowed in the campground, with admittance prohibited from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Reservations may be made through Reserve America MAP | Camping Fees

Two youth camping areas also are available. These may be reserved from May 1 through Oct. 31. An adult must accompany every group of 15 minors. Any group of 25 or more must get permission from site personnel before entering the park.

Fishing and Boating

With the Mississippi River and its backwaters the perfect habitat for so many kinds of fish, anglers are consistently baiting their hooks at Mississippi Palisades. Catfish and carp are the most commonly caught fish, but bluegill, crappie and bass are out there, too. Those long on experience might even land walleye and northern pike. There are no motor size limits on boats, and launching ramps at the river access areas are free.

Hunting

Hunters gather at the park each year for deer and wild turkey archery and firearm hunting. During the three-day shotgun deer season, the day use area and hiking trails are closed. Consult the Hunter Fact Sheet for more information. 

Mississippi Palisades Hunter Fact Sheet | French Bluff Hunter Fact Sheet

Picnicking

Throw a checkered tablecloth across one of the park’s many picnic tables and enjoy one of summer’s simple pleasures. The shelter houses and drinking fountains in the park attest to the 1930s craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Six picnic shelters are available, three of which are able to be reserved through Reserve America.

Winter Sports

Don’t let a little cold weather keep you from visiting the park. Mississippi Palisades offers cross-country skiing and sledding for outdoor enthusiasts. Anglers are not left out in the cold either--or maybe they are--because ice fishing is allowed at the boat launch area when the ice is thick enough.

Enjoy Your Visit

Your trip to Mississippi Palisades State Park will be more enjoyable for you and for everyone if you follow a few simple rules. Keep your pets leashed at all times. Stay on designated trails. Don’t pick any flowers. As the Indians did, leave only footprints.

Directions

From I-90, exit at US Rt. 20 west (Galena/Freeport exit). From Rt. 20, turn south on Rt. 84. The park is located 18 miles from Rt. 20.
From I-80, exit on Rt. 84 and travel north approximately 50 miles to reach the park which is located three miles north of Savanna.


  • While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
  • At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
  • Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
  • Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
  • We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
  • For more information on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs' Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
  • Telecommunication Device for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175 for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.

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