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The two RV Gypsies
at Matthiessen State Park
in LaSalle County, Illinois

USA map showing location of IllinoisIllinois map showing location of Matthiessen State Park
September 20, 2016 - Lee's birthday card from Renee.
Lee Duquette's birthday cardLee Duquette's birthday card

Karen Duquette tried several times to get Lee a cupcake for his birthday, but the only place in town was closed every time they drove by there. But Karen liked the big pink Sasquatch outside of the Cupcake store, so she took a photo. She wanted Lee to take a photo of her next to the big pink Sasquatch, but Lee did not do so.

 pink Sasquatch

MATTHIESSEN STATE PARK is located in central LaSalle County, approximately four miles south of Utica and three miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen. Free access. Free Parking.

It was named for Frederick William Matthiessen, who had originally owned the 176 acres of property that is at the core of the current park. Two mansions, several cottages, a garage, and a private fire station were built here by Matthiessen for his family. It was an estate that hosted a private park known as "Deer Park". The park was donated to Illinois by Matthiessen's heirs, following his death in 1918, and was renamed in his honor in 1943. Since then, land was added, growing the park to 1,938 acres. The last building of the former estate was destroyed in 1981, although some of the concrete stairs leading into the canyon are of the original construction.

The park is centered on a stream that flows from Matthiessen Lake to the Vermillion River. The stream has eroded partway through the sandstone layers, leaving interesting rock formations and drops. The Upper Dells begin at Matthiessen Lake with the Lake Falls, which drop into the canyon below, and continue downstream to the 45-foot-tall Cascade Falls where the Lower Dells begin. The interesting coloration of many of the canyons is the result of minerals in the groundwater. Many mineral springs exist throughout the park, providing salt lick spots for the large deer population. Besides the hiking trails, there are also horse trails.

sign: Matthiessen State Park Dells Area

The two RV Gypsies began their hike by walking over a bridge and looking down from both sides of the bridge into the gorge.

looking down into the gorge looking down into the gorge

Then they went down some stairs into the gorge and took photos looking back up at the bridge.

in the gorge looking up at the bridge

stairs going back up to the bridge

The canyon trail at the bottom of the gorge is just over 1 mile with a number of waterfalls, cascades, and pools. But when the two RV Gypsies saw the stepping stones, with one stone completely under water, they decided not to take the trail, so they went back up the stairs they just came down and took the upper trail. (However, eventually, they found their way at the top of the stairs above the stepping stones and they did walk over the stepping stones, because by that time their feet were already wet).

canyon trail at bottom of the gorge stepping stones and stairs by the dam

a small dam by the stepping stones

small dam in Matthiessen  State Park

At the top of the stairs by the bridge, the two RV Gypsies chose to go right to the Upper Dells first.

back at the top of the stairs Path at end of bridge going to upper or lower Dells
directional sign upper trail

The Cedar Point trail followed the ridge line and often yielded nice views of the gorge below.

Cedar Point sign looking down from Cedar Point

The two RV Gypsies came to more stairs down and learned that the hike was going to be wet, muddy, slippery, and a little arduous (the canyon lies 6 stories below the surrounding plain), but it was fairly easy and worth the effort. This is where they would have been if they had taken the stepping stones and stairs by the dam that was shown earlier. But they had taken the higher trail which was easier, but a bit longer.

lower gorge lower gorge

To get to the small waterfall they could see ahead of them, the two RV Gypsies realized that they had to get their feet wet.

lower gorge Lee Duquette walking on stones before stepping into the water

Wet feet and getting through an island of roots, the two RV Gypsies made their way to the set of stairs beside the small waterfall (which can barely be seen in the photo below) and they made their way as close as they could to the waterfall (the water started getting deeper), then they went up the stairs to the top of the small waterfall.

Karen Duquette walking in the water island of roots
Lee Duquette by a small waterfall a small waterfall
a small waterfall

Below: two views of the small waterfall from mid-way up the staircase.

the top of the small waterfall view from staircase

Karen Duquette at the top of the waterfall, but safely out of the water.

Karen Duquette at the top of the waterfall Karen Duquette at the top of the waterfall

Looking down from the top of the waterfall to where the two RV Gypsies had previously walked through the water.

Looking down from the top of the waterfall

Walking past the waterfall, the two RV Gypsies came to "the Giant's Bathtub".

Lee Duquette walking through the Giant's Bathtub Lee Duquette walking through the Giant's Bathtub

Then the two RV Gypsies were treated to the beauty of Lake Falls in Matthiessen State Park.

Lee Duquette at Lake Falls
Lake Falls Lee Duquette at Lake Falls
Lee Duquette at Lake Falls Lee Duquette at Lake Falls
Karen Duquette at Lake Falls Karen Duquette at Lake Falls
Karen Duquette at Lake Falls Karen Duquette at Lake Falls
Karen Duquette at Lake Falls Karen Duquette at Lake Falls
bridge over Lake Falls Lake Falls

Then the two RV Gypsies made their way back to the parking lot so they could eat their picnic lunch. By now Karen had lost track of the number of stairs they had walked up and down on, but it was over 1,000. After lunch they hiked to the Lower Dells with more stairs.

look below

Please continue on to the Lower Dells Please continue on to the Lower Dells and Cascade Falls at Matthiessen State Park.