The sound was neither man nor animal.
We debated the possibilities in the darkness of our log cabin and I couldn’t help but think it had been a ghost of an Indian wanderer, still seeking rest from an event that occurred more than 240 years ago.
We were spending the night in Starved Rock Park, a state park in Illinois. Indian lore surrounds the place. Legend has it that in 1769 an Illini warrior assassinated the Ottowa leader Chief Pontiac. Vowing revenge, the Ottowa Indians gathered their allies the Potawatomi and attacked a band of Illini along the Illinois river, chasing them up a nearby butte. The two tribes surrounded the large rock, killing any Illini who dared make the descent and sabotaged their attempts to secure food and water. Eventually the Illini starved and the legend of Starved Rock was born.
As one who’s always loved Indian history and culture (though I do find it frustrating and depressing too), I’ve enjoyed visiting this park over the years. Illinois is generally thought of as a flat, boring, prairie-covered land. Filled with towering buttes, sandstone cliffs, canyons, and lush forests springing up along the Illinois river, the unusual landscape of Starved Rock Park contradicts all those stereotypes.
Visitors may spend the day hiking through the park and exploring the secret hideaways. One of my favorite places is the Lasalle Waterfall. If you fancy jumping off the rock ledge, there’s a beautiful and inviting swimming hole. Just make sure your climbing skills are decent enough to get back out again!
Another favorite spot of mine (being the secret hopeless romantic that I am) is Lover’s Leap, where legend says two young Indian lovers from different tribes hurled themselves to their deaths because they were forbidden to marry.
The park is open 365 days a year and offers on-site accommodations such as a campground and cabin rentals at Starved Rock Lodge.
I suppose we’ll never know what woke us in the middle of the night but I like to think that Indian magic continues to blow through the trees and flow through the canyons, luring in visitors.