2.5 Million Visitors to Starved Rock in 2015

January 11, 2016

Starved Rock busts another yearly attendance record
Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

Did you go to Starved Rock this year? More people went to Starved Rock in 2015 than live in the state of New Mexico.

Starved Rock State Park released its yearly attendance records Thursday and, once again, there is a new record for yearly attendance. Nearly 2.5 million visitors — 2,496,139, to be exact — jammed the Utica-area park in 2015, an 8 percent increase over last year’s then-record 2.3 million.

Starved Rock’s popularity has soared over the past dozen years. Park officials uncorked champagne at the end of 2004 when park attendance crested 2 million for the first time. These days, 2 million-plus is the norm; Starved Rock has only missed that mark in four of the past 11 years.

“We were pleased to see such a great interest in Starved Rock in 2015,” said Starved Rock Lodge CEO Amy Trimble, “We hope that 2016 is even better and based on the active waterfalls we’re seeing today (Thursday), winter is looking good!”

Early in 2015, the park appeared on pace for a banner year. Eagles and ice brought in near-record visitors in January and March — monthly totals for both were second-highest in park history — and May just missed matching last year’s all-time high.

Perhaps most impressive is that June floods — the Illinois River came within inches of swamping Utica for the third time in seven years — could not keep Starved Rock from having its best-ever summer.

More than 850,000 visitors arrived between Memorial Day and Labor Day, breaking attendance records for June, July and August. The record summer yielded to an above-average fall in which monthly attendance rose by an average 17½ percent.

“For losing the summer as much as we did, that is incredible,” marveled Kerry Novak, park complex superintendent.

Starved Rock’s little sister had a good year, too.

Matthiessen State Park drew 408,020 visitors, about 4,500 short of the record, making 2015 the sixth-highest total on the books.

Autumn was an especially strong season at Matthiessen. The Vintage Illinois Festival was widely credited for helping September to an all-time high (nearly 66,000 visitors) and November’s seemingly tiny 17,000 stands more than 60 percent above average.

Novak readily acknowledged that he and his staff steered visitors to Matthiessen as a direct consequence of the floods, providing visitors with a dry place to hike and picnic. Matthiessen’s final numbers have left Novak convinced that promoting Matthiessen is a worthwhile strategy even when Starved Rock is fully accessible.

“I think Matthiessen is developing its own following,” he mused, noting that Matthiessen once was something of a well-kept secret, or a place where locals could avoid the crowds at Starved Rock. “I think it’s a nice trend.”

– See more at: http://www.starvedrocklodge.com/2-5-million-visitors-to-starved-rock-in-2015/#sthash.1OhgoFK1.dpuf