French Canyon

Blind Canyon

One of the closest canyons to visit in Starved Rock State Park is French Canyon.  Just a few hundred meters from the parking area, it's a popular destination for visitors.  However, the narrow canyon makes it just a bit tricky to walk up a short portion of the stream. The canyon narrows to about 4 feet, and the running stream to about 18 inches, so one must walk in the water to access the end of the blind canyon and see the dramatic waterfall.

While only your shoes will get wet, you can climb up without getting any water on you what so ever.  Pressing a foot against the right side of the canyon wall, then quickly pressing the other against the left wall, then repeating.  This way, you never set foot in a drop of water.  Winter... that's a different story.

Narrow Canyon

The waterfall is known for the multi-level cascade where the water never leaves the rock face. This creates a spectacular frozen sculpture in winter, and a soothing fall all year round.

Visiting the Falls in LaSalle Canyon

Through the Falls

The recent rainfall in Illinois increased the amount of water falling in the canyons of Starved Rock State Park. The waterfall in LaSalle Canyon is a popular destination for hikers, and the trail goes behind the falls. The view through the falling water is not seen that often in the other canyons of Starved Rock, so this is a treat for visitors.

Visiting LaSalle Falls

The rain certainly kept a lot of people away from the trails, but we encountered a few people here and there on our four hour hike. The trails do get a bit slippery when they get muddy, but I was surprised they weren't soft and impassible.

Falls at the End of LaSalle Canyon

The lack of crowds allowed us to concentrate on photographing details we would often pass by. The big waterfalls are always captured, but some of the small falls are quite interesting as well.

The Waterfalls of LaSalle Canyon

LaSalle Canyon in the Rain

The rain let up just before we arrived at Starved Rock State Park, allowing us to view the waterfalls at their full flow. Summer often dries up most of the waterfalls, and leaves the others dripping a trickle of water to the canyon floor, but luckily they were all flowing for our visit.

LaSalle Canyon rarely disappoints in any season.  In winter, the falls are frozen and create an ice cave under the overhang of the canyon wall. In warmer months, the trail through the canyon runs behind the waterfall, allowing visitors to see the canyon through the flowing water.

First View of LaSalle Falls

The canyon isn't difficult to access, but it is about equidistant from the two main parking areas, making it a bit less crowded than most of the canyons closer to the trailheads. The distance doesn't keep everyone away, as this is still one of the most popular canyons in the park.

I'm often in this canyon during the winter months, so it was a rare experience for me to see the lush, green plants surrounding the canyon.

Photographing the Falls

Another surprising thing was the lack of mud on the trails we followed. Some areas were a bit soft and slippery, but mostly, they were surprisingly hard packed and easy to hike.

Color Returns to the Dunes

Lupine in the Woods

Following a colder than usual spring, the colors and flowers are back again along the rolling dunes of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  A large cluster of wild lupines blooms just over the ridge of a wooded dune, just a few yards from Lake Michigan.

The Trail Ahead

Following the path through the woods, we came to a vast open area of Marram Grass dotted with shrubs. The open space, while not filled with blooming flowers, was deep green, with blue Lake Michigan beyond. This open area leads to a very large blowout facing Lake Michigan, which is now off limits to visitors.  A blowout is an area of the dune devoid of vegetation, so it begins to erode, creating a sort of depression in the dune.  These are naturally occurring, and not necessarily created by people walking on the dunes, yet, the park seems to close them all with hopes of stopping the erosion.

A Line of Puccoon

Crossing the backside of the blowout, we headed back toward the beach and Lake Michigan. On the journey, familiar clumps of yellow flowers appeared all over the landscape. These flowers are called Puccoon, and were once used to make dyes by native people of the area. Some varieties have also been used for medicinal purposes.

Most of the flowers of the Indiana Dunes blossom for just a short period of time, so make sure to visit often to see as many as you can.