Utica (North Utica), population 997, is an outdoor recreation hub for north central Illinois. The area has rich Native American, explorer, trading post and pioneer history. Sitting along the Illinois River, the city provides easy access to three excellent state parks; Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Park and Buffalo Rock State Park, as well as and other outdoor venues.
Rock formations are the main attraction at 2,630-acre Starved Rock State Park. Here, 18 canyons through the forested sandstone bluffs create a scenic backdrop for recreational activities. Guided hikes through the park, in spring when the canyons end in waterfalls, and in fall when changing leaves color the scene, are offered. The park offers camping, sledding, ice skating, hiking and cross-country skiing trails, river overlooks, fishing, canoeing and boating. A park lodge provides a hotel, pool and restaurant.
Matthiessen State Park's 1,938 acres feature colorful rock formations, waterfalls, prairies, forests and mineral springs. Birds, wildflowers and other wildlife can be seen from the hiking, horsebacking and cross-country skiing trails. Nearby Buffalo Rock State Park sits on a bluff overlooking Illinois River. Once home to Native Americans and a French outpost, the site features Effigy Tumuli, five animal-shaped clay sculptures, American bison, trails and picnicking areas.
Around the Utica area there are also horseback riding trails and camps, snowmobiling trails, and outfitters for canoeing on the Fox River, and whitewater rafting along the Vermilion River.
North Utica is located 73 miles south of Rockford, 66 miles north of Bloomington and 91 miles southwest of Chicago. It is accessible via Interstate Highways 39 and 80. Lodging options are limited and include a handful of resorts and bed and breakfasts. More lodging options are available in nearby Ottawa and La Salle.