Buffalo Rock State Park

On my last day of the Utica excursion I decided to give Buffalo State park another chance.


I had visited it years before, excited about the earth sculptures, only to get hot in the harsh sun of the prairie landscape.


To let a speeding truck pass me I pulled into the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Lock Entrance and snapped a selfie there.


The birds-eye view can be perused from Starved Rock State Park.


The Buffalo Rock State Park entrance on this road was different from what I remembered, (and later learned I had indeed come another way before).


My trusty state park guide book was at home, and I went by the maps on signposts at each park this year, when before I always had everything mapped out ahead of time.


With Geocaching more prevalent I’m sure there are phone apps by the forest districts, but I still prefer to walk the trails pretending to be disconnected, though knowing I have GPS on my phone is certainly comforting as a lone wanderer.


I strolled down the overlook path, thinking it would give me the birds’eye view. Instead, it took me past the river, and a later sign clarified that this was a River Overlook. Four Pelicans flew over me at one point, which was awesome to watch.


The Effigy Tumili were in the other direction of the river overlook, so I wandered back that way, just enjoying the prairie flower scents and cricket and bird sounds.


I came upon the catfish and laughed at not being able to see the eye at all. It was just a mound, with a path that the sign said we were allowed to climb.


Titled “Effigy Tumuli” in tribute to the Native American burial grounds that inspired it, Michael Heizer’s “earth art” depicts five sculptures native to the Illinois River.


Sculptures of a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and a water strider were created into mounds hikers can climb and explore. On top of the catfish, I took a view around.

catfish view

This photo by L. Jenkins shows what the mound looks like:


I crossed paths with other hikers, who shared my initial disappointment of not being able to ‘see’ the effigies. Even Google Earth doesn’t do it justice:


The turtle was considered risky to climb, but I observed a pair of monarchs at the foot of the mound, both extremely camera shy. The grass was taller than me.


I kept the insect-cam going and trusted my zoom lens a lot.


If the snake is meant to be the exposed lime rock, it’s the easiest effigy to recognize.

snake sign

Limestone formations are so spectacular.


Google Earth’s view:


I wanted to linger but a mosquito urged me to move on. I had an allergic reaction to a bite on my arm, even though other bites were fine, so not having yet consulted my medical experts I was leery of inviting another sting of epic proportions. Next time Benadryl cream will be my companion, and a small container of vinegar.


I pondered walking the whole length of the park’s path to the area I had entered last time, but it was getting hot and I had not brought my hat, so I figured I wouldn’t risk heat fatigue with a 2-hour drive ahead of me.


I came upon a few of these “Say Anything” icons but am not sure what they mean…


More critters crossed my path:


Thus I wandered back the way I came, and startled when I noticed bison through a chain link fence.


I suppose Buffalo Rock should have some buffalo!



I switched into sandals and began the drive home. Most of it was easy except a stretch on I-55 where weavers crisscrossed all three lanes to violate the speed limit.


Otherwise the ride home felt surprisingly short, making me think I should head into the I&M Canal’s territory more often this year.


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