Mississippi Palisades State Park

16327 Il Route 84

The Native American pathfinders along the rock palisades of the Mississippi River did as present-day hikers do -- in coursing the bluffs, they took the paths of least resistance. The trails at the Mississippi Palisades, especially the park’s southern routes, put you in touch with the past. Walk them and you’ll trace the footsteps of all those who came before you, some of whom came this way nearly a thousand years ago.

Located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois, the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park is rich in American Indian history.

Natural Features

Palisades is the word used to describe a line of lofty, steep cliffs usually seen along a river, and Mississippi Palisades, 3 miles north of Savanna in Carroll County, handsomely lives up to its name. Caves are evident as are dangerous sink holes--limestone caves that go straight down. Erosion has carved intriguing rock formations, including Indian Head, with its aquiline characteristics, and Twin Sisters, a pair of humanoid figures on the bluff tops. The U.S. Interior Department recognized the remarkable nature of this area in 1973 when it designated acreage here as a national landmark.

Wooded ravines, whose brilliant hues splash the cliffs with color each autumn, dissect the unglaciated terrain. Ferns dot the deep ravines, while in the park’s northern region, white birch leaves of ripple in the wind. Each spring and summer the valleys and slopes are dappled with the blooms of trillium, bluebell, lobelia, shooting star and yellow ladies’ slipper.

Animal life, within the park and the river areas immediately adjoining it, is varied. Waterfowl and shorebirds are numerous, as are wild turkeys. Striking pileated woodpeckers make their home in the park, and depending on ice conditions, eagles feed at the river in January and February. Because so many birds migrate along the river, their lyrical songs can be heard at the Mississippi Palisades each spring.

But not all that’s fascinating about Mississippi Palisades’ wildlife is in the skies. White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, skunk, muskrat and weasel can be viewed in the park, as can mink, gray and red fox, woodchuck and, occasionally, badger.


David Hahn

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Great park with excellent camping. There are many good trails with good views of the limestone/dolomite cliffs and Mississippi River. I can't wait to come back and do a few more trails. We saw several Bald Eagles this week when we were hiking, including juveniles.

Dave K

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017

One of the best state parks in Illinois, great views of the Mississippi and plenty of trails in the park. There are also a few more trails north of the park in the old Savannah Army Depot. The park usually fills up very fast on holidays, but reservations shouldn't be necessary during normal weekends.

Justin George

Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016

Seriously breathtaking views of the upper Mississippi River. But that's kinda it.... oh and Mosquitoes, tons of them. There are some nice looking trails, but I had my mountain bike and all the trails say foot travel only. So that didn't work out that great. Recommend planning/taking activities with you if you plan on staying here.

Katy Pine

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This is one of my favorite places to return to, after a childhood's worth of summers spent in this area. Usually we just drive to the top and walk out to Lookout Point, a beautiful vista. I've also walked some of the trails, which are quite pleasant. Some of them are more rough than others. I did spend the night tent camping here once. While it was a more rustic experience than other parks I've camped in, it was comfortable and very quiet and serene. The sites are well spaced and supplied with facilities. There's even a playground in the park. The evening brought a magical show of fireflies lighting up the entire forest canopy. One of my favorite memories ever. There are frequently trains running past near the front of the park, but I didn't notice them during the night I spent in the park.

Ray Brown

Friday, Oct. 21, 2016

We camped for a couple of nights in mid-October. The campground was very peaceful. We also hiked to several overlooks for amazing views of the Mississippi River.