Fall for Starved Rock

From her work at Starved Rock Lodge, Kathy Casstevens is witness to an ever-changing landscape that’s always good for a show – and she knows it doesn’t get better than autumn.

Story and Photos By Kathy Casstevens

The best part about Autumn is that it’s an entire season filled with beautiful moments that last for more than one day. A stunning array of colors appears between September and November each year at Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby.

I have the honor of working as marketing manager at Starved Rock Lodge, located right in the middle of this natural wonder. My dream job allows me to take photos almost every day. It’s really fun to experience the changing of the seasons, sunrises, sunsets and so much more and to share those photos with our fans through social media, our website and Northwest Quarterly Magazine.

Depending on the amount of rainfall, Starved Rock’s waterfalls may or may not be active, but that only adds to the beauty a photographer can capture. I have been a photographer for decades, and nothing brings me more joy than to hike in the month of October when fall colors are at their peak.

On the east side of Starved Rock State Park, Council Overhang is the perfect place to take your first set of photos. The golden hues of St. Peter Sandstone create a stunning backdrop against the forest floor, which is covered with thousands of leaves in various colors. My recommendation is to take horizontal and vertical photos as well as close-ups and wide shots to truly show the magnificence of this rock structure.

Around the corner is Ottawa Canyon, which features moss-covered boulders and, in most years, a waterfall where leaves dance to the ground from high above. Kaskaskia and Illinois Canyons are located further to the east. All of these locations have a unique look, and all are photo worthy.

For expansive views of the scenic Illinois River Valley, hike to the top of Starved Rock, Lover’s Leap, and Eagle Cliff to take the best panoramic photos. LaSalle Canyon is the most beautiful in LaSalle County and worth the hike to get there. French Canyon is the shortest hike from the Visitor Center or Lodge. It takes 40 minutes to hike to St. Louis Canyon. You’ll have photo opps at Aurora, Kickapoo and Sac canyons along the way.

The camera you use is not as important as the way you focus on an image. Think about this when you’re framing the photo: You might take a better photo if you get down to ground level or tilt up. Maybe you need to zoom in tightly to show how intricate a colorful leaf is. Smartphones will help you to complete the look.

Let me encourage you to get up and go hiking this fall. You’re sure to capture some great memories.