Our Hike at Matthiessen State Park

The beginning of the 147 step trek down to the bottom of the canyon.image

Historical Facts

Frederick William Matthiessen was a prominent industrialist and philanthropist from LaSalle. He provided his community with a high school, a gymnasium, an athletic field, a public library, a hospital and an electric light plant, He purchased the original 176 acres now known as Matthiessen State Park near the end of the 19th Century. He built a three-story, summer mansion with 16 bedrooms and nine baths called, “The Big House”. Another smaller 26-room mansion, was home of one of the Matthiessen’s five children, Adele, and her husband Captain George Blow. The lodge was built next and named “Deer Park,” because of the large deer population. Mr. Matthiessen employed many residents to construct the numerous trails and bridges that weave along the long narrow canyon.

After Matthiessen’s death in 1918, the park was donated to the State of Illinois in 1940 by his heirs, which then opened it as a public park in 1943. The state renamed the park in honor of Matthiessen. The park has now grown to 1,938 acres and includes much of the key natural areas surrounding it.

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Look at all the columbine! So pretty!

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The canyons walls teem with life.

There are prairies, forest, canyons, streams, prairie and forest at Matthiessen State Park. It Is located in LaSalle County, just south of Utica and east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a eden for those interested in geology. When you go, expect to see awe-inspiring rock formations in addition a perfect habitat for many mosses, ferns and liverworts that thrive on the damp, shady walls.
There many unique rock formations at Matthiessen State Park, exposed sandstone can be seen throughout the main canyon, which consists of the Upper and Lower Dells. The Upper Dell begins at Deer Park Lake and continues to Cascade Falls, where the canyon drops 45 feet and the Lower Dell begins. The canyon was formed by water erosion and is one mile long from Deer Park Lake to the Vermilion River. Visitors can observe ground water seeping out along the sandstone of the canyon walls. As the ground water washes along the canyon walls, the minerals that are carried in the water contribute to the coloring of the rocks. Deer are known to use the mineral springs as salt licks.

The damp, sandy walls of the canyon provides a perfect habitat for many mosses, ferns and liverworts. The vegetation of the canyon interior is limited to the simpler orders of plant life, as most plants cannot take root on the steep rock walls. Looking up, cliff swallows and rock doves can be seen nesting on the canyon walls. Looking down, frogs, toads and salamanders seek out the moist canyon floors.

The sandy bluff tops near the canyon edge are home to many oaks and red cedar. White pines and white cedar are also found here, as they were carried south by the glaciers of the last ice age. Some common shrubs found in this area include serviceberry, mountain holly, witch hazel, black huckleberry and northern honeysuckle. Many local and migrating  birds use these species as food sources.

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Can companies stopped using this pull-top lid in the late 1970’s. This one was preserved by a tree root!

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Waterfalls, waterfalls everywhere!

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The tree had heavy evidence of being a wildlife path.

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Graffiti

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More columbine!

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This oak hold on for dear life on the canyon floor.

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Yellow Lady’s-slipper –  Cypripedium parviflorum

This find made my day!! Not a common sight in Illinois, however they are native here!!

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As it’s been closely said, “What goes down, must go up”… Get ready hammies!!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

6 thoughts on “Our Hike at Matthiessen State Park

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