Lowden State Park
It is time to head to Lowden State Park which is on the opposite side of the Rock River from Oregon. The following pictures are of going on the bridge, and then along what is called the River Road. We will be driving past Park East, and then the old Chana school which has been recently restored (a two-room school house), a boat launching area where my dad used to put his boat in and then the entrance to the old dirt River Road. I don't have any pictures of that as there is no place to park to get a picture. Shortly after that we will be at the entrance to the park.
If you would like to see more about the Chana School Restoration, you can click on the following link. This school was originally built in the 1880s.
I have a lot of memories of going to Lowden State Park, as that was the park my parents preferred to go to for picnics and sometimes just for an evening ride. When I was a child, on the right side of the park was a large pen built into the edge of the woods. Within this pen were several wild deer. They were used to people coming up to the fence to see them and to the kids offering some long grasses or green leaves to them for food. Over the years, vandals killed several of the deer and after replacing them several times, the park finally took the pen down.
The areas open for camping were very limited when I was a kid, as the park was used mainly for picnics and in the summer for the local Girl Scouts Day Camp, which I attended every year. Slowly over the years, more brush and trees were cleared and the areas for picnicing and camping were extended. There used to be a huge old house there which served as a dormitory for boys from the Boys Home in St. Charles, Illinois. The home was a juvenile detention facility. I remember being cautioned by my parents and other adults to be careful when on a hike because of those boys being there. I don't remember anything ever happening there, though, or if it did, I was not aware of it. Some of my favorite times there were with my Aunt Jeanne as she would take us on a hike to the statue of Blackhawk through the woods, and would point out some of the wild flowers she knew. I never realized until later years that her knowledge was more limited of those flowers than my Mom's, but Mom never liked to take that little hike!
My mom and my biological father used to also have picnics at Lowden's according to the stories she used to tell me. In the 1940s the park didn't close at sunset or at 10:00 p.m. as it does now, so they used to go out there for a late night supper/picnic with friends like after an evening of playing cards. I still have the candle base that they used to use for their light. It holds a candle and a glass chimney sits over the candle to protect the flame from the wind. Needless to say the candle has been replaced many times over the years, and the glass chimney has been replaced a few times. I have used it myself during power outages to be able to walk through the house if the flashlights were not available. Mom always had a picnic basket packed and ready to go, all that was needed was the food! We still have a lot of her picnic items, including the old metal frame to toast bread on - looks like an upside-down metal box with holes in it, and wire to hold the toast in place. It works great for camping.
I remember one picnic we had in the evening after my parents got home from work. We met my grandparents and their friends and we got supper going or as Grampa used to call it - the pacnac food. My little brother was only about 5 and he was constantly on the move. These friends of my grandparents didn't have any children and they lived in Chicago, so they loved to come out to Oregon to visit. Grampa offered Brian, my little brother, a nickel if he could climb this tree that Grampa pointed to. Brian was always a smart little one, and he got Grampa to raise it to a quarter. Grampa felt he was safe until Brian was halfway up the tree! Brian earned his quarter! And we all had a great laugh, while Brian strutted around with his quarter. He tried to get Grampa to challenge him to another tree, but Grampa had learned his lesson.
The park has been so popular that by the 1970s they opened an area up on the other side of the main road for more campsites. This area has no electrical setups, so it often is not as full as the main camping area.
These pictures are of the White Oak Camping area, the one across the road from the main entrance.
This is the main entrance to Lowden State Park.
This is the main camping area and then one of the many picnic areas.
Many people leave a camping trailer or RV parked there the entire summer and use it as a summer home. Most of the hiking trails are more around the statue altho there is one through a small wooded area that goes directly to the statue. The park road goes around the small wooded area to a parking lot behind the statue, and then on around back to the main part of the park. As you go along the road to head to the statue, there is another road off to the right. This road takes you to the Northern Illinois Art campus. Originally that land was part of the Eagle Nest Colony, which was a group of artists who stayed there. One of those artists was a sculptor by the name of Lorado Taft. Taft was the man who created the Black Hawk statue.
You can't mention or talk about Lowden Park without talking about the Black Hawk statue. This statue stands about 50 feet tall, and supposedly stands 48 feet above the river bed. Back in the 1940s, you could enter through a metal door in the ground behind the statue, go down some stairs and then climb stairs to look out a small window screen just above the folded arms of the statue. This proved to be unsafe somehow so that access is now only for park personnel. There are pictures around here of me as a little girl of various ages, sitting on the base of the statue, but over the years all the human touching of the base wore it down, so it is now illegal to be on the base of the statue. The nose takes the most brunt from the winds and the weather and so it is repaired every so many years. The area around the statue has been landscaped and redone a few times over the years. There are two huge floodlights that shine on the statue from dusk until morning. There are a couple of trails that lead down to the river, and also a set of wooden staris with several landings and benches for the less adventursome. Once you get down the trails or the stairs, you can walk along the old dirt river road at the edge of the river to a small area with a spring of clear, cold water. This spring is called Ganymede Spring. My mom used to tell of filling bottles with the water, but when I was a teen-ager, the water was contaminated. I haven't been there for years, but my son says there is no signs around it anywhere and they now have picnic tables there as well. This spring flows into the Rock River and is accessible by boat as well. If you elect not to climb the hill back to the statue, you can continue walking on the old river road back to the asphalt one that is used all the time. You would be a mile or so from the park entrance. My girlfriend and I used to go down that old dirt road the summer before we were sophmores in high school. We were going to be taking Biology and had to have a collection of 50 different insects ready for the first week of school. We would go there to catch our insects and to sit and gab. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Let's get back to the statue - Growing up I was always told that the statue was called Black Hawk, but was supposed to be a composite of the Black Hawk tribe that once had lived in the Rock River valley. What is listed on the website by the state of Illinois tells a bit different story. If you would like to see the State of Illinois's website on Lowden State Park and the statue, please click on the following link. You can also access information on the other state parks in the area from here. Department of Natural Resources Lowden State Park
These are views taken while standing in front of the statue, overlooking the Rock River Valley. Many years ago, there was an old "dead" tree that looked really "Halloween-ish" - it was an old dead cedar tree that at one time had an eagle's nest in it and eagles came there every year. The tree is now gone and even though you see many trees, to me there is a huge bare spot where that tree used to stand.
Pictures leaving the statue area.
White Pines State Park
Castle Rock State Park
Castle Rock Boat Access Pictures
Castle Rock Picnic & Trail Area Pictures
Lowden State Park
Lowden-Miller State Forest
Mt. Morris, Illinois
Grand Detour, Illinois