Buffalo Rock State Park is an 8,193-acre (3,260ha) protected area in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. The state park contains a variety of landforms including bluffs, buttes, ravines and wetlands which provide homes for rare birds, plants and animals. It was named after a rock formation near the site that provided a landmark during buffalo hunts. In 1970, it became part of the newly created Will County Forest; however, three years later, when most of the other county forests were turned over to the Department of Natural Resources, this forest remained with the county as Buffalo Rock State Park.
One of the main goals of the park’s establishment was to protect the watershed from the effects of quarrying that took place around Grafton, Illinois. To achieve this goal, all surface mining within park boundaries has been banned since 1977. The DNR also manages Bronson Covered Bridge State Trail inside park boundaries. This trail passes through the Old Town of Italy community just outside the park boundary. There are more than 40 miles (64km) of hiking trails at Buffalo Rock State Park. A visitor center provides maps and information about the geology, ecology, and wildlife of the park. The park includes two major waterfalls on Big Creek, which flows down a 100-foot (30m) deep gorge and drops over a series of rapids before reaching its mouth along the Dupage River east of Joliet.
On its way to Lake Michigan, Big Creek joins another creek north of the park called Little Falls Creek. At one time these creeks flowed into each other, forming a large waterfall known as Niagara Falls. However, erosion caused by glaciers left behind during the last ice age split the rock face where Niagara Falls now sits, leaving a smaller cascade known as Lewiston Falls atop the larger drop. Buffalo Rock itself is a butte or mound of eroded sedimentary strata, topped by a 2,000-year-old glacial sandstone deposit called Jordan Sandstone. Other formations found here include shale, limestone, and the Kankakee Formation, a lowermost Triassic period sedimentary deposit. Fossils of coral reefs, bryozoans, crinoids, echinoderms, molluscs, trilobites, and fish such as Parastromateiros, Hoploceras, and lungfish have been discovered in the Jordan Sandstone.
Visitors may see some of these animals while walking the 3.5 miles (5.6km) of hiking trails, 12 miles (19km) of cross-country skiing trails, 10 miles (16km) of equestrian trails, or 7 miles (11km) of mountain biking trails. The park features boating, camping sites, cabins, disc golf, fishing, group camp, playground areas, picnic shelters, swimming beach, volleyball courts, and horseshoe courts.
218 species of birds, 47 mammal species, 43 reptile species, 49 amphibian species, 35 fish species, and 44 invertebrate species have been identified in the park.
Among the wildlife of the park are:
- black bears
- golden silk spiders
- garter snakes
- mountain lions
- nutria rats
- pileated woodpeckers
- red foxes
- red-bellied woodpeckers
- river otters
- Virginia big-eared bats
Plant life includes:
- bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
- white pine (Pinus albicaulis)
- red pine (Pinus resinosa)
- eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
- yellow birch (Betula papyrifera)
- American elm (Ulmus americana)
- black ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
- horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
- skunk cabbage (Porrum pusilla)
- spring beauties (Claytonia spp.)
- prairie dock (Rumex palustris)
- bullhead lily (Nuphar variegatum)
- arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)
- greenbrier (Cynanchum rossicum)
- Carolina bogmint (Mentor pinnatus)
- yew (Taxus taxifolia)
- northern pin oak (Olyra latifolia)
- Canada yew (Taxus canadensis)
- American holly (Ilex opaca)
- river birch (Betula nigricans)
- swimming beachgrass (Champlainella cucullata)