Rock Falls is located alongside the scenic Rock River in Northwestern Illinois. The Rock River flows nearly 300 miles from its origin in Southern Wisconsin, to its ending point at the Mississippi River near Rock Island, Illinois. With the presence of two dams and three pools of water, the Rock Falls section of the Rock River is abundant with fish, wildlife and recreational opportunities.
Biking, Hiking and Water Trails
Illinois no longer requires paddlecraft (canoe, kayak, paddle board) to be registered and titled. However, paddlecraft do need a current Water Usage Stamp issued by the IDNR – Click here to find out how to purchase.
History of the Rock River through Rock Falls & Sterling, IL
First built in Rock Falls in 1907; by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Sinnissippi Dam commonly referred to as the Upper Dam, creates a pool of water known as Sinnissippi Lake. Sinnissippi Lake, which covers several hundred acres, is teaming with bluegills, bullheads, and largemouth bass and because of its depth is ideal for boating. The Rock Falls or southern side of the Upper Dam is equipped with two hydroelectric turbines that generate clean electricity for the City of Rock Falls. In 2007, the State of Illinois, in a collaborative effort with Rock Falls, Sterling and their respective park districts opened a 10’ wide walking bridge that spans the Upper Dam and Rock River.
Running through Rock Falls is a 29-mile off shoot of the Rock River known as the Hennepin Feeder Canal. The Hennepin Feeder Canal funnels water from the Rock River to the I&M Canal located near Sheffield, Illinois. The Hennepin and I&M Canal systems were built in the late 1800’s by the federal government as a means for improving transportation and commerce, however; improvements in technology quickly made these waterways obsolete and today they are used solely for recreational purposes.
Fishing & Bird Watching
Located approximately a mile south of the Sinnissippi Dam, the Lower Dam is a historic piece of the Rock Falls – Sterling industrial past. Built to provide power for industrial factories, the Lower Dam helped to spawn generations of livelihood in the Sauk Valley. Today the de-commissioned Lower Dam provides for some of the best fishing in the State of Illinois. With nearly 500’ of tailwater, the Lower Dam creates a shallow water habitat that is ideal for channel catfish, walleye, sauger and white bass. In 1959, a portion of the Lower Dam and its surrounding land were transferred to the Coloma Township Park District and the Lower Dam Park was established. In recent years, Lower Dam Park has become a hot spot for bird watchers, as many species including bald eagles, flock to the fish abundant waters of the Lower Dam during the winter months.
Lawrence Park & Sewards Park
Just past the Lower Dam is Lawrence Park. Lawrence Park is an extremely unique park property that is located on an island in the middle of the Rock River. Accessible from the Avenue G Bridge, Lawrence Park is believed to be the first park in the Rock Falls – Sterling area. A boat launch to access the Rock River can found on Lawrence Park; as well as at the Jim Arduini Boat Launch near the Upper Dam and Seward’s Park which is located between the dams.
In recognizing the waterway's infinite value to Rock Falls, Rock Falls Tourism has partnered with the Rock River Development Authority and Rock River Trail Initiative to help preserve and promote the Rock River. For more information on how you can help to keep the river beautiful please contact the Rock Falls Tourism office.
Other Routes of Interest