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  Rock Cut - State Park   

Northwest Region

7318 Harlem Road
Loves Park, IL 61111

sailboat on lake
Park Brochure Directions Park's Present
Accessible Facilities Disabled Hunting Picnicking
Beach Equestrian Trails Swimming
Boating Fishing Trails
Camping History Winter Sports
Concession Hours  

Update: Rock Cut will be having a drawing for trapping. Please read our news release for more information.

Chiseled out of the state’s far northern region is Rock Cut State Park in Winnebago County. Nearby are other "rocky" landmarks - the mighty Rock River and the place where wagons once forded it, Rockford. It’s an area of rolling plains, interesting history and recreational variety.

Two lakes set off the park’s 3,092 acres. Pierce Lake, with 162 acres, is a retreat for people wanting to fish, ice fish or ice skate. A second 50-acre Olson Lake is especially for swimmers. Rounding out the park’s recreational options are camping, hiking, horseback trails and cross-country skiing. Whatever the season, you can be sure there’s quite a bit of activity going on at Rock Cut State Park.


Summer Hours (April – October)     Gates open at 6:00 a.m. – Gates close at 10:00 p.m.
Winter Hours (November – March)  Gates open at 8:00 a.m. – Gates close at  5:00 p.m


By the middle of the 17th century, Miami-speaking tribes of Native Americans entered the region of Rock Cut State Park after the Iroquois drove them from territory on the southern end of Lake Michigan. From about 1655 until 1735, the Rock River was within the range of the Mascouten, who were also pushed westward by the Iroquois. The Winnebago ranged southward from Wisconsin to the Rock River from the 1740s until 1837, while the river’s upper portion was on the periphery of the Fox and Sauk territory from about 1765 to 1833. By 1800, the Potawatomi, Ottawa and Chippewa nations had extended their range into the area, but they ceded their lands to the United States 32 years later following the Black Hawk War.

Settlement of Winnebago County Began after the Black Hawk War. The region that is now Rock Cut State Park was settled partly by Scots around Argyle - named for their Scottish home of Argyllshire - and partly by Canadians, New Yorkers and New Englanders around the town of Harlem - named for New York City’s Harlem. The Illinois version of Harlem was moved in 1859 when the Kenosha-Rockford Rail Line was built. The dammed waters of Pierce Lake now cover much of the railroad bed within the park, although portions of the railroad grade are visible along Willow Creek below the spillway. But blasting operations in a rock outcrop that railroad crews conducted during the 1859 construction left lasting impressions here - they cut through rock to provide a suitable roadbed and gave Rock Cut its name.

The Park's Present

Because water serves as a welcome mat to birds and animals, wildlife watchers to the area won’t be disappointed. Birders report good viewing, with waterfowl being abundant. Deer, fox, muskrat, woodchuck and beaver inhabit Rock Cut State Park as do opossum, raccoon and both gray and fox squirrel. Over 100 types of wildflowers offer a showy display each spring and summer, while the hardwood trees dazzle you with their reds and golds every fall.

Trails MAP | MAP (11x17)

The trail system at Rock Cut offers opportunities for hiking (40 miles), mountain biking(23 miles), and equestrian(14 miles) and has been completely remarked. Trail users will find updated trail head/information signs at picnic areas and trail access points for trail information and regulations. Only certain trails are designated for mountain biking and equestrian use and are identified by colored trail markers. Blue trails are for mountain biking and hiking, yellow trails are for equestrian and hiking and red trails are restricted to hiking only. Sorry, Rock Cut does not have horse rentals or stables at the site. Lockwood Park located in the Rockford area has horse rentals and is approximately 10 miles from the park.

Trail activities have been divided into "summer and winter" seasons to provide quality seasonal programs. The "summer program" (mountain biking and equestrian) trails are open April 1st - November 30th. These regulations for mountain biking and equestrian use will be strictly enforced and violators are subject to fines.

The "winter program" provides for groomed cross-country trails as conditions permit.  Cross country skis and snowshoes can be rented through our concession, for hours and information call 815/885-4740.  The groomed trails can also be accessed at the Lions Club Picnic Area. As a courtesy, hikers and snowshoes are asked to use other trails that have not been groomed for skiing.

Rock Cut also offers access (at the Pierce Lake spillway) to the Willow Creek Bike Trail and Perryville Path, a paved trail system connecting the local communities of Loves Park and Rockford to Rock Cut State Park.


Campground Cabin For those who want to include an overnight stay in their visit to Rock Cut, the campgrounds provide electricity at the site, water hydrants at the beginning of each camping loop, sanitary dump stations, showers, toilets, a boat launch and playground equipment. There are 210 Class A Premium sites and 60 Class B/S Premium sites. There is also a primitive cabin, it has electricity, but does not have water or plumbing facilities. Reservations can only be made at www.reserveamerica.com. The Park Office no longer accepts reservations.

From Nov - April, only electricity is available; there is no access to water or dump station. Equestrian camping is restricted to a site on Hart Road, is only available on a first come, first serve basis and the Ranger will collect the fee at your site in the evening. Rock Cut is an Alcohol Free park and campground, this rule is strictly enforced.

 Campground Map

Fishing and Boating

One of the park’s most popular activities is fishing Pierce Lake - named for state Rep. William Pierce of Rockford, who served in the legislature from 1951-1966 and who proposed the first land acquisition for the park in 1955. The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and channel catfish, as well as bullhead, northern pike, muskellunge and walleye. Any size engine is allowed on Pierce lake, however, engines over 10 HP can only operate at no wake speed. Pierce Lake has docks and two launching ramps. Olson Lake also offers excellent fishing, with only carry-on watercraft and electric motors allowed.


The hunting program at Rock Cut allows disabled hunters an opportunity to participate in a Department of Natural Resources program for managing the park's deer herd and turkey populations. A satellite location, Rockton Bog located in Rockton, IL offers archery deer hunting during the statewide season.    Rock Cut Hunter Fact Sheet | Rockton Bog Hunter Fact Sheet


Olson Lake Beach is open annually from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.The beach is open from Noon to 7:00 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Amenities include Lifeguards, sand volleyball courts, paddle boat rentals, concession items and a changing room. The cost is $3 per person. For additional information call (815) 978-5560.


Knowing that a visit to a state park is more fun when there’s food to be enjoyed, picnic areas are scattered throughout Rock Cut, each complete with tables, outdoor stoves, and pit toilets. For groups up to 50 people, the site has five shelters that may be reserved at www.reserveamerica.com.


The Rock Cut Concession is open seasonal hours at Pierce Lake with canoe, kayak and boat rentals, as well as a variety of bait available.¬† The Lone Rock Cafe is located by the boat launch area and features wireless Internet, a variety of food items and drinks including smoothies and blended coffees.¬† For more information and prices, check out their website www.rockcutpark.com or call (815) 885-4740.

Accessible Facilities

Several handicapped-accessible features are available at Rock Cut State Park, including two fishing piers with one at Lions Club day use area covered. The park also has paved walkways, accessible toilets, a picnic shelter, and campground area with flush toilets and showers that can be used by disabled visitors.

Winter Sports

Take to the trails in the winter. A winding system of cross-country ski trails lets you take in the park’s winter beauty.   Cross-country skis and snowshoes can be rented through the concession located at the Camp Store. For hours and information call (815) 885-4740. There’s more winter fun--ice fishing is a great Rock Cut pastime.


I-90 West to Rockford. Take the Highway 173 Exit. Go West for one-half mile to the Park Entrance. For more information about the Rockford Area, please visit the Rockford Visitors Bureau

Enjoy Your Visit

Please abide by park rules during your visit. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the park. Do not pick any flowers, and keep your pet leashed at all times.

The park is accessible from Highway 173, at the north entrance and Harlem Road at the south entrance. Travelers using Interstate 90 should take exit at Highway 173.

  • 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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