Starved Rock Foundation

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Starved Rock State Park History

A brief overview

The land that includes today’s Starved Rock State Park has a long and wonderful history. Starved Rock and the immediate area surrounding it have been nearly continuously occupied by Native Americans during the last 10,000 years


. In 1673, the first Europeans to traverse today’s Illinois (members of the Jolliet and Marquette expedition) witnessed the steep sides and prominent features of Starved Rock. Intermittently between 1677 and 1679, Jesuit missionary Claude-Jean Allouez lived with the Illinois Indians encamped at nearby Kaskaskia, a large village within view of the famous Rock. In January 1680, the men of La Salle’s first Mississippi expedition passed Starved Rock on their way south. During the winter of 1682-1683, Jacques Bourdon d’Autray, a respected member of La Salle’s inner circle, supervised the construction of Fort Saint Louis atop Starved Rock. For the next several years, the immediate area of Starved Rock was the nucleus of what history calls “La Salle’s Colony,” the home for many Native American tribes and sub-tribes including the Illinois, Miami, Shawnee, and others. The fort on the Rock would remain headquarters for French trade and diplomacy in the “Illinois country” until it was abandoned by the French in 1691, in favor of a new site at Lake Peoria.


In 1712, one band of Illinois Indians, the Peoria, returned to the rock and reestablished camps. They were joined by other Peoria tribesmen in 1722. The last mention in the historical records of Illinois Indian occupation at the site is in 1751.


Between that year and 1834, Starved Rock and the adjacent lands were relegated to landmark status, just a place mentioned on old inaccurate maps. With the arrival of the Americans came new claims to ownership of Starved Rock. Daniel Hitt, La Salle County, Illinois’ first land surveyor purchased Starved Rock and surrounding lands from the United States government. Hitt maintained ownership of the lands until 1890 when Ferdinand Walthers purchased the property in 1890. In 1891, Walthers constructed the Starved Rock Hotel on the terrace immediately to the southwest of Starved Rock.


During the first decade of the 1900’s a movement was afoot for public ownership of Starved Rock. This eventually came to fruition in 1911 when the State of Illinois agreed to buy the park from Walthers. Starved Rock was now the second state park in Illinois. Today Starved Rock State Park welcomes over two million visitors annually who come to explore the beautiful environs of this unique site.