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Photographer's Note

This area has been home to humans from as early as 8000 B.C. Hopewellian, Woodland and Mississippian Native American cultures thrived here. The most recent and probably the most numerous group of Native Americans to live here was the Illiniwek, from the 1500s to the 1700s. Approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Kaskaskias, a subtribe of the Illiniwek, had a village extending along the bank of the Illinois River across from the current park.

In 1673, French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette passed through here on their way up the Illinois from the Mississippi. Known as “Pere,” the French word for “Father,” Marquette returned two years later to found the Mission of the Immaculate Conception-Illinois’ first Christian mission-at the Kaskaskia Indian village.

When the French claimed the region (and, indeed, the entire Mississippi Valley), they built Fort St. Louis atop Starved Rock in the winter of 1682-83 because of its commanding strategic position above the last rapids on the Illinois River. Pressured from small war parties of Iroquois in the French and Indian wars, the French abandoned the fort by the early 1700s and retreated to what is now Peoria, where they established Fort Pimitoui. Fort St. Louis became a haven for traders and trappers, but by 1720 all remains of the fort had disappeared.

Starved Rock State Park derives its name from a Native American legend of injustice and retribution. In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe upriver from here, was slain by an Illiniwek while attending a tribal council in southern Illinois. According to the legend, during one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge his killing, a band of Illiniwek, under attack by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte. The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless Illiniwek died of starvation- giving rise to the name “Starved Rock.”

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