´¯`•. June 07, 2017

Illinois:  Pere Marquette State Park

Our first day in Illinois was travel and then hiking Mattheissen.  Our second was hiking Starved Rock.  Our third was John Deere and a bunch of little stops on our way down to Pere Marquette.  And here we are, now on our fourth day… which had us awakening to find ourselves in Pere Marquette State Park – the largest state park in Illnois.  (Most of it is ‘organizational’ camps and youth camps that aren’t for the public, however.)

The first thing we had to do was go to the Visitor Center.  I needed a hiking map, since the one I got on-line left a LOT to be desired (had no hiking trails on it), and because we had to find someone to pay for our camping.  We stayed there two days – and the entire time there was a sign at the camp host site that read “NOT ON DUTY”.

At Pere Marquette State Park, half of the campground isn’t sites – it’s ‘picnic area’, which is weird, because the campground is nowhere near the visitor’s center, hiking grounds, or anything else.  We had to drive from the campground to where everything of interest was.  So why have a picnic area there?  I have NO idea.  It seemed like an ill-thought out plan.

NoTe to travellers:  never skip the visitor centers when travelling.  First, they have interactive activities that are fun for the kids, and sometimes even have educational programs you weren’t expecting (like the Jr. Ranger program at Starved Rock).  Second, the people there can tell you all about the place and the things you want to see, and the best ways to get to them.  They can tell you that the flooding has washed out the yellow diamond trail, a third of the way in, so don’t take it.  It matters!

They apparently can also take campground payments, if it comes to that.

Cabin next to the Visitor’s center.  I had to zoom in,
because everything was ripped up and ugly, all around it.

Pere Marquette Visitor’s Center.

Apparently down here eagles are the BIG thing – they fish out of the Mississippi.  So the boys are in an eagle’s nest!  We actually saw the hind-end of an eagle, the night we drove in.  It was eating carrion, and few off – white tail stark under it’s brown back as we neared it, but I didn’t get a picture.  Anyhow…!  We paid for our camping, then found out about a scenic drive we could start out with, and picked up the hiking map for later.

By the way, I should add that the Mississippi was severely flooded, during our visit.  This is the county park across the street from the state park.  It was underwater.  Badly.  Most everything was.

We took the scenic drive, first, getting out at the overlook stops.
There’s the Mississipi River, and the floodbeds, in front of it.

We got our first sighting of the St. Louis arch, up there!

Makes you want to come up and look out, with us!

The water is insane, down here.  So are the bugs.  I’m flummoxed by it – how is it possible that everyone living on the Mississippi doesn’t have West Nile or Malaria or something?  Because it’s dirty, buggy, and gross.  Really bad.

Returning to put our camp pass on the post, we found a Mama red-eared slider laying her eggs beside our camper.  Strange place for it, but okay…?  We left her alone and went on an adventure I’ll post over the next three blogs.  But for now, let’s just say that we returned around 5pm, ready to do some hiking at Pere Marquette!


We started out by visiting the lodge, at the State Park.  It was HUGE!

So was their chessboard.  The boys were *geeked*.

Looka those chandeliers!  I have to tell you, my pen-pal went on a ‘trip’ of his own, at the same time as we were travelling.  He wrote that got sucked back in time, the day before, to Camelot… where he was acting as a royal guard under the protection of Merlin, who was working on a way to get him home.  So when I saw these chandeliers…!!!

Anyhow, it was time to hike.  Doesn’t it look inviting?!

I had wanted to come here because of this picture I saw on Pinterest →.  I thought it’d be amazing to stand way up high and overlook the Mississippi with the outcropping.  Sadly, this outcropping was not at Pere Marquette State Park.  If it was, they certainly didn’t mark it on any of the maps, and the man running the visitor’s center didn’t know where it was.

HUGE disappointment.  2.5 miles, and just to see the same view we already saw.  MANY times over, that day.  This was their ‘can’t-miss-it’ hike’s view, by the way.  My advice to people who go to Pere Marquette?  Do the scenic drive and climb the short overlook stops, but don’t bother hiking.  It’s the same view.

And the trail was *tight*.  And we picked up a tick.  Ugh.  (Check your kids!!!)

So no… I wasn’t impressed with Pere Marquette.  It was close to the things that we wanted to see, so it served as a ‘home base’, but the bathrooms were dirty and user-unfriendly (water squirting straight out of the handles at us, no counter space, showers that leaked all the way out of the shower stalls and to our clothing, toilet stalls that saw no cleanings while we camped our two days there).  No sign of the camp host, at all.  It may be the biggest state park, but it left a lot to be desired.

You camp there to go and see other stuff that’s local, basically.
And that works, in the end.  For what it is.  😉

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