Website: Illini State Park
Straight forward getting here, take exit 97 off of I-80 and head south on E 24th Road which becomes Rutland St. At the intersection of US 6 continue straight on to Main St. and proceed thru downtown Marseilles (we believe pronounced Mar-SAY-ulls). Continue on Main over the large bridge, the park entrance will be on your left shortly thereafter. After turning in the entrance the campground will be the second right. From here on the roadway gets a bit tight for bigger rigs but we managed OK with no issues.
Date(s) of Stay: September 24, 2017 arrival, September 26, 2017 departure
Located along the south bank of the Illinois River across from the town of Marseilles, this state park was once a golf course, created by WD Boyce, founder of the Boy Scouts, in 1910. It was converted to a State Park by the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935. Today it offers 45 electric RV sites most with 20/30 amp service and 55 non electric sites. Sites 9-12 have 20/30/50A service. No water or sewer hookups here but there is a dump station. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. There are two loops – Great Falls and White Tail. The riverfront section of Great Falls Loop (sites 3-30) had the most spacious sites, some appropriate for bigger rigs, while sites in the wooded Great Falls Loop section (sites 31-58) and in the White Tail Loop (sites 60-84) were more suitable for tents and smaller rigs.
Rates vary by season and site type, see Reserve America for specifics. Note a $5 non-refundable reservation fee is charged when the reservation is made. Our rate for two nights was $45, $20 per night plus the $5 reservation fee.
Overall Impression – 3/5
This is an older but decent campground with somewhat narrow paved roads, mostly gravel sites, lots of grass and trees situated directly on the Illinois River. Being on the river is what makes this park worth a visit. Perhaps when it is busy it might be noisy and feel congested, but during our visit the campground was perhaps only 25% full making our stay quite pleasant and we enjoyed hanging out watching the river traffic. Little to no privacy between sites, but many of the sites are well spaced so that wasn’t a big issue.
Our first site #12 was right on the river with a huge grassy area both behind and on the patio side of our rig so we had a nice view of the barges and recreational boats and a great feeling of privacy. Roads are pretty narrow throughout the park, making maneuvering a little challenging for a large rig, particularly when exiting. The site markers are a bit confusing, with site numbers for two adjacent sites on a single wood post located between every other site (see photo right).
Be aware that there is no ranger station at the entrance to the park so if you do not have reservations, you will need to stop at the camp host site to determine a site and pay for it. If you do have a reservation, proceed to your reserved site, get set up then go see the camp host to check in.
Our reservation was for one night but when we arrived, we extended our stay for an additional night on the same site with the camp hosts
who were quite friendly and accommodating. However, the next morning, Peg stopped by to tell us that she had made a mistake – site #12 had been reserved by someone else so we had to move to site #11 which we did. Later that day a couple with a small trailer backed into site #12 but apparently didn’t like the site (acorn bombardment?) so they moved to site #10. Somewhat aggravating that our morning move was for naught! Although moving from one site to another is always a pain, our Dish satellite reception on site #11 was much better so I guess it was worth the pain.
Size – 3/5
Both sites (#11 and #12) were plenty long enough for both the rig and our toad. On Reserve America, site #11 is listed as a 35′ back in and site #12 is listed as a 48′ back in. But with no barrier or curbing at the end of the sites, larger rigs (ours is 45′) can easily fit on both these sites. Most of the sites we observed seemed to be this way, however, we’re not sure if that is the case with all sites which may have other obstacles like trees, rocks or steep grading. Although the gravel site driveway was fairly narrow, on #12 there was a lot of space between us and our neighbors on the patio side and a huge grassy area behind us which was great for watching the activity on the river. Site #11 had less of a patio area and no privacy to speak of, although with no one on the adjacent sites it still felt spacious. On #12 we were also directly under a huge old tree (we think a white swamp oak??) and giant acorns (well at least they sounded like giant acorns) bombarded the coach roof even waking us up a couple a times during the night. The acorn bombardment was less noticeable on site #11.
Privacy – 2/5
None between sites although some sites are well spaced enhancing the feeling of privacy.
Amenities – 3/5
Dump station, bath house, boat ramp, playground, fishing, picnic shelters and picnic tables. Sorry we did not check out the bath house or any of the other amenities.
Physical Surroundings – 4/5
Pleasant natural environment on the river with lots of trees and grass. Not all sites are on the river however and so the experience may be less pleasant in those locations. Also it’s likely to be noisier and congested on weekends and during the peak season making for a less pleasant stay. We stayed during the week with the campground perhaps only 25% full making our experience positive.
Maneuverability and Roads – 2/5
The main roads are paved but fairly narrow making it a little challenging maneuvering through the park in a large vehicle. As you enter the Great Falls section you must bear right onto the one way loop and we had no difficulty with this in our 45′ tag axle rig with tow attached. Departing this loop is a different story however, as there is a sharp left hand turn by the dump station followed by a sharp right turn complete with inappropriately placed trees. Difficult to do in a big rig. If you have a big rig, to exit (or to maneuver your way to the dump station), turn right towards site #1 (campground host site) and drive around the loop to turn around, thus avoiding the sharp left hand turn.
The loop is also tight but there is grass adjacent and no drop off if you need to drive on it (we did). This still leaves a sharp right hand turn with a small nearby tree and we had to drive on the grass opposite to clear it.
One of the negatives is there is no dedicated out of the way spot to stop and unhitch, so we had to park in the roadway at our site to do so. For larger rigs it may be best to hitch/unhitch just before entering the Great Falls one way loop where there is enough space for other vehicles to get around you.
Peace & Quiet – 3/5
When we were here mid-September, the park was only about 25% occupied so except for the noise of the barges (we only saw/heard two during our two day stay), the pleasure boats on the river and the occasional distant train whistle, it was fairly quiet. Likely to be a lot noisier on weekends and during the peak summer months.
Utilities – 2/5
- Sewer – none provided
- Satellite – on site #12, we were able to hit Dish 72 (but not 61.5) and on site #11, we were able to get Dish 129 (preferred). Reception will be hit or miss elsewhere in the Great Falls loop as there are lots of mature trees.
- WiFi – none provided
- Cellular signal – Verizon was exceptionally fast, with a 75mb download speed, 3 to 4 bars inside the coach. AT&T was very good with about a 10mb download speed.
- Over-the-Air (OTA) TV – poor, received a few channels but none of the major networks.
- Power – very good, 119 volts,
both legs (50A). Old looking junction boxes but no issues observed. Most sites are 20/30A but sites 9-12 are 20/30/50A. The electrical boxes tended to be to the far rear of the sites so plan accordingly.
- Water Pressure/Quality – none provided
What We Liked
– Relatively inexpensive
– Location of our site #12 next to the river
– Close proximity to the interstate
– Very spacious sitting area to the side and rear on site #12
– Very friendly, helpful camphosts
– Natural treed, grassy environment
What We Didn’t Like
– Acorns bombarding our coach
– The camp hosts messing up our second night reservation.
– The narrow roads and tight turns