Visitors flock to view vast field of sunflowers

Sunflowers return to Starved Rock Country

Calling all photographers and plant lovers: The towering sunflowers in a sprawling field at Matthiessen State Park have bloomed for the 2021 season.

There’s no question that this lush attraction, conveniently located just a short drive from the popular Starved Rock State Park and Interstate 80, has become an important annual event in the Starved Rock Country area. Visitors from across the state, including the Chicago, Peoria and Rockford areas, already have started flocking to the picturesque, 60-acre sunflower field.

The flowers bloom through July, and by August they seed, and wilt through early September, their lifespan attracting pollinators and providing shade for deer, opossums and raccoons. Anyone planning a professional photography session must apply for a filming and activity permit through the park office at least two weeks in advance for approval.

The sunflower field is near the southeastern Vermilion River area entrance of the park on Route 178, about 1.5 miles south of the intersection with Route 71. One you’re in the park, follow the sunflower signage pointing you towards the parking lot nearest to the flowers. Park officials kindly ask visitors to avoid walking through the park’s model airplane field that neighbors the sunflowers.

Viewing the sunny stalks in person is just one of the many reasons to visit historic Matthiessen State Park. This serene stretch of nature boasts beautiful, prairie-lined trails, Ice Age-era dells, rushing waterfalls and mossy canyon walls. Matthiessen feels untouched by time, its mile-long canyons carved out by centuries of erosion, exposing some fascinating otherworldly geology.

Founded at the tail end of the 19th century by LaSalle zinc tycoon Frederick William Matthiessen as a private retreat, it originally was known as Deer Park, earning the moniker thanks in no small part to its enormous deer population. Even after its name change, Matthiessen still remains one of your best chances at spotting wildlife in LaSalle County.

While Matthiessen’s Lower Dells section remains closed to visitors following recent heavy rains and rising water levels, the equally spectacular Upper Dells and top trail from the Fort Shelter are open and accessible via the park’s Vermilion River Access Area on Route 178. These trails are relatively graded and relaxed, providing a beautiful view to hikers of all ages and experience levels.

SRC TIP: Avoid the crowds by planning a midweek road trip to see the sunflowers.

Matthiessen State Park

2433 Route 178

Oglesby, IL 61348