Flowing endlessly for countless centuries, the Apple River has cut through the masses of limestone, dolomite and shale until massive cliffs now rise high above the water and canyons have formed. Vast ages of water and erosion widened and deepened the crevices as rivers and streams cut their way through the stone. Close-up views of the colorful canyon reveal walls dotted with mosses, lichens and tenacious bushes which have found crevices to hold their roots on the sheer walls.
The glacial sweep which ironed out hills and filled valleys in other parts of the state left this area unscratched. This circumstance accounts for the large number of fossil remains to be found near the surface here. It also was responsible for the easy availability of the lead veins that has much to do with the early development of this section of Illinois.
The park contains such wildlife as deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, eagles, hawks and 47 varieties of birds. At least 14 different ferns and over 500 different herbaceous plants and 165 varieties of flowers can be seen throughout the park.
Four picnic areas with tables, grills, accessible drinking water and toilets may be found along the river’s banks. There are also three shelters, two are handicap accessible. The reservation form is available on this website or may be obtained by contacting the park office.
The park offers 47 Class "C" sites without showers and also two handicap accessible sites. Reservations are not accepted, sites are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Camping permits must be obtained at the park office. Walnut Grove offers youth group camping and requires a reservation. The reservation form is available on this website or may be obtained by contacting the park office. Winter camping is available from 11/1 - 4/15 in our Walnut Grove Youth area only.
Hunting is available in the Thompson and Salem Units, Witkowsky Wildlife Area , Tapley Woods, Hanover Bluff Natural Area, Wards Grove Nature Preserve and Rall Woods. Contact the park office for more information.
The Apple River has a variety of fish including smallmouth bass, sunfish, crappie, carp, and suckers. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks Apple River with keeper-size trout. The river is one of several in the state where the department releases this fish. Trout require clean, clear, cold water and in the spring, Apple River meets these requirements. However, the fish do not live through the hot summer months so the stream is stocked on a put-and-take basis. License and trout stamps may be obtained at the park office.
Five trails - Pine Ridge, Tower Rock, River Route, Sunset and Primrose Trail (handicap accessible) - wind through the woods for several miles within the park.
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