Apple River Canyon State Park in Jo Daviess County
Apple River Canyon State Park, located near the Wisconsin border, offers two campgrounds on its 297 acres as well as several nature trails. Postcard views of the Apple River bluffs await visitors to the state park. (PA photo/M. Nester)
By Mike Nester | For The Prairie Advocate News
APPLE RIVER—Apple River Canyon State Park allows visitors a first-hand look at the limestone cliffs along the Apple River in northern Jo Daviess County as well as providing camping, hiking, and other outdoor opportunities.
Located just south of Apple River on North Canyon Road, the state park is also easily accessible from IL Rt. 78 (East Canyon Road) or IL Rt. 20 (North Canyon Road).
Purchased in 1932 by the State of Illinois, the 297 acre state-run facility uses the beauty of the Apple River as its scenic backdrop.
Apple River Canyon State Park has two campgrounds to serve its visitors—Canyon Ridge Camping Area and Walnut Grove Camping Area.
The main campground, Canyon Ridge, provides 50 sites for RVs or tent camping and includes four restrooms, running water, and a dump station. There are also two handicapped accessible sites.
The Walnut Grove Youth Camping Area is designed for family and youth groups and provides six different tent camping areas, complete with restrooms and running water.
Reservations are accepted through ReserveAmerica and winter camping is available from Nov. 1 to April 15 in Walnut Grove. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the campgrounds.
Visitors get a first hand look at the colorful Apple River via several nature trails in the park. Primrose, Sunset, River Route, Tower Rock, and Pine Ridge all provide unique vistas of the Apple River.
Apple River Canyon has a variety of wildlife including deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, eagles, hawks and 47 species of birds. At least 14 different ferns and over 500 different herbaceous plants and 165 varieties of flowers including the diminutive Bird’s-eye primrose, can be seen throughout the park.
The park offers four picnic areas with tables, grills, and accessible drinking water. It also has three shelters, two of which are handicapped accessible. Shelter reservations are available through Reserve America.
The Apple River has a variety of fish, including smallmouth bass, sunfish, crappie, carp and suckers, providing an excellent angling experience. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks Apple River with keeper-size trout, one of several areas where fish are released.
The Apple River Canyon State Park system also includes seven other sites that offer hunting opportunities in Jo Daviess County:
- Thomson and Salem Units - Two units on Scout Camp Road 10 miles northwest of Stockton totaling 1,052 acres. Hunting is available for squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, fox, coyote as well as deer and turkey seasons. The site has five parking lots and borders the Apple River.
- Iris and Jack Witkowsky Wildlife Area - Located 7 miles north of Hanover on Black Jack Road, the 1,086-acre site provides hunting for spring and fall turkey as well as three different deer seasons. Hunting is also allowed for squirrel, rabbit, and coyote. Witkowsky has four parking lots and 578 acres of woodlands.
- Tapley Woods Natural Area - Located along IL Rt, 20, this 259-acre timbered site provides hunting opportunities for spring and fall turkey as well as five different deer seasons, including youth. Hunting is also allowed for coyote, raccoon, fox, squirrel and rabbit.
- Hanover Bluff Natural Area - Located just west of Hanover on Hanover Hill Road, this 348-acre parcel also includes walk-in fishing at a 15-acre lake. The lake provides an excellent opportunity for largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. Please sign in and out and record harvest at the registration area provided at the parking lot. Spring and fall turkey, deer, squirrel, rabbit, fox, coyote, and raccoon are all available game species for hunting
- Wards Grove Nature Preserve - Located less than two miles from Stockton on S. Willow Road, the nature preserve offers a chance to hunt deer on 335 acres of upland forest and wooded ravines.
- Rail Woods Natural Area - Located north of Savanna on Airhart Road, this 283-acre timber provides opportunity for turkey and deer in the hilly terrain. Squirrel, rabbit, raccoons, fox and coyote hunting are also available.
- Winston Tunnel Natural Area - Located five miles south of Galena on Blackjack Road, the site provides hunting on 207 acres. Turkey and deer permits are averrable for the site and hunting is also allowed for squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, fox and coyote.
Apple Canyon State Park also oversees the Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve and the McKeague Unit Nature Preserve. Both are closed to hunting.
To access locations, maps and fact sheets for these areas, visit the IDNR website at http://dnr.illinois.gov or phone the site office at 815-745-3302.