Lowden State Park
One of the most picturesque sites along the Rock River is just north of Oregon. Legend has it that Chief Black Hawk, as he left the area after the Black Hawk War, spoke of the beauty of the area and admonished his captors to care for the land as he and his people had. Lowden State Park was established not only to care for the land, but to allow visitors to share in the beauty as well. This park serves as a memorial to Gov. Frank O. Lowden who served Illinois during WW I.
Chicago attorney Wallace Heckman, assistant manager of the University of Chicago, purchased the land in 1898, that later became the park. He and his wife had developed a great love of the outdoors while college students. In Chicago society, the Heckmans became patrons of the arts. They combined these two interests and established an artists’ colony on their Rock River property. The colony was called “Eagle’s Nest” in reference to a tall, dead cedar tree that clung to the high river bank. The bare outstretched limbs of the tree inspired Margaret Fuller, a poet of the Concord Group, to write the poem, “Ganymede to His Eagle.” The park is also home to the statue of the Eternal Indian, commonly called “Blackhawk Statue” that was completed in 1911 by famous sculptor Lorado Taft.
About a year after the last of the artists and their families left the colony, Gov. Lowden died, and the legislature appropriated $25,000.00 toward the cost of a memorial to him. The citizens of Oregon and the surrounding area along with assistance from the Department of Natural Resources matched that amount in order to purchase the Eagle’s Nest property and make it a memorial park. In 1945, the 63rd General Assembly designated the 273 acre site as Lowden State Park.
Six years later, the 66 acres that originally composed the Eagle’ s Nest Colony were transferred to Northern Illinois University at DeKalb, IL for use as an outdoor teacher education program. The site called the Lorado Taft Field Campus was renovated by NIU’s Industrial Arts classes and was used year round for conducting natural science classes in an outdoor setting. Today the campus is used primarily for retreats.
Visitors to Lowden State Park will enjoy picnicking, camping, 4 miles of trails, boating, and fishing.
White Pines State Park
Located in the heart of the Rock River Valley, this charming 385 acre park is the south boundary of the old Chicago-Iowa Trail. History tells us this was for years the principal east-west route across the northern part of the state.
When early settlers arrived, they found this 700 acre forest of untouched pine extending for ¼ mile along the east bank of Pine Creek. With a view to preserving Illinois’s last stand of natural white pines and the most southern stand of white pines in the United States, a movement was started in the early 1900s to set aside the area as a state park. Through efforts of Ogle County nature lovers, a bill appropriating $30,000.00 for purchase of land was passed by the legislature in 1903, but the measure was vetoed. Finally, in 1927, the forest was acquired.
Today, the park provides the perfect get-away. There are plenty of outdoor recreational activities: hiking, fishing, camping, and picnicking. Surrounded by a serene, picturesque, beautiful forest, individuals or families can escape from the every day routine and relax in one of many modern log cabins or enjoy a delectable meal in the lodge.
Along the meandering banks of Spring and Pine creeks, this scenic haven shares vine decorated magnificent trees with moss-covered cliffs, In season, colorful beds of blossoming trout lily, Solomon’s seal, bloodroot, blue-eyed grass blanket the forest floor.
Among the park’s most interesting features are the concrete fords that span the creeks, allowing the visitor, quite literally, to drive through the flowing streams. A newly created benefit for those physically challenged is the addition of four concrete sidewalks leading to the stream bank for viewing or angling.
Castle Rock State Park
Castle Rock State Park is located on the west bank of the Rock River three miles south of Oregon on Highway 2, Centrally located in the Rock River Hills region of Illinois, the rolling topography is drained by the Rock River. Rock formations, ravines and unique northern plant associations found in the park are representative of the Rock River Hills area. Adjacent to the river, a sandstone bluff has given the park its name.
New Englanders settled the Castle Rock area in the early 19th century. In 1921, “Friends of Our Native Landscape” proposed this area be transformed into a state park. They were able to acquire some of the land they described as “a unique wilderness remnant of great natural beauty and scientific interest.” The Natural Lands Institute, a non-profit natural lands preservation group, conducted a public fundraising campaign in 1964, to preserve part of the Castle Rock area.
The state of Illinois recognized Castle Rock as an outstanding area of scientific importance, established it as a project area, and land acquisition commenced in 1970. At the present time, Castle Rock consists of approximately 2,000 acres, 710 of which are designated as an Illinois Nature Preserve. The site was dedicated as a state park in 1978. Picnicking, hiking trails, fishing, boating, camping, and hunting attract Oregon’s local residents and welcome visitors.