Enjoy state parks, memorable meals and history on a drive along the Illinois River Road.

By The editors of MidwestLiving.com
March 12, 2013
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Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.

The Illinois River Road runs 150 miles from Ottawa, Illinois, to Havana, passing near Starved Rock State Park and traveling through Peoria. Here are a few highlights of the trip; for more information and maps, see illinoisriverroad.org.

What to do

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge The largest of three National Wildlife Refuges within the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges Complex (the others are the Emiquon and Meredosia), Chautauqua attracts more than 100,000 fall birds.  fws.gov/midwest

Ottawa attractions At the northern gateway to the Illinois River Road, see murals depicting local history, check out a spectacular lift-style railroad bridge, and wander through Washington Square Park, where statues of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas recall their first senatorial debate, held at the park in 1858. Active adventures await nearby at Buffalo Rock State Park, Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Park and the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Read more about Ottawa.

Washington Square Park
Jason Lindsey

Peoria Heights North of Peoria, detour from the Illinois River Road byway to pretty Grand View Drive. Restaurants and shops include Leaves n Beans and I Know You Like a Book. peoriaheightschamber.com

Peoria RiverFront You'll find plenty of places to eat, plus paddle-wheeler excursions, ethnic festivals, a marina and a riverfront museum.  visitdowntownpeoria.com

Starved Rock State Park Views of the Illinois River unfold from bluffs in Starved Rock State Park. Hikes hit all of the highlights. www.dnr.illinois.gov

Starved Rock State Park
Ginger Crichton