Heritage Harbor Ottawa Blog

Category: Starved Rock Country

The Starved Rock Fall Spectacle Is IN The Air


Heritage Harbor Ottawa will be partnering with Ride the Helo, a helicopter tour company out of Kankakee, during the month of October to bring Starved Rock Country its Fall foliage helicopter tour. The ride will clock in at around 20 minutes and bring patrons from Heritage Harbor Ottawa, up towards the Starved Rock Lock & Dam to see the incredible display of fall colors, then back to Heritage Harbor Ottawa. Rides will be offered throughout the day on October 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22.


Patrons will need to make a reservation to participate in this exciting experience by calling Heritage Harbor Ottawa at 815-433-5000 or by emailing hho@heritageharbor.com. Cost is $150 per passenger.


Each helicopter ride can seat 2 to 3 people, depending on the combined weights of the passengers and pilot. The helicopter will be piloted by one of Ride the Helo’s commercially graded pilots, many of which have been pilots for the duration of their adult lives.


Ride the Helo is the brainchild of Jeff Benoit and Cal Pickup, two career pilots who wanted to bring an accommodating and exciting tour experience to Central Illinois.


“We really pride ourselves on the fact that when we show up to an event, we provide a very clean operation with pilots that have great personalities and allow people to see the world from a different perspective,” said Cal.


When Cal first flew the tour that will be offered at Heritage Harbor Ottawa, he said he stayed in the air a little longer than he had planned to, because the scenery during the flight was just so beautiful he didn’t want to land.


One of the curators of this spectacle and Heritage Harbor Ottawa’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Tammy Barry, had this to say about the offered experience. “Many people have seen the wonders of Starved Rock by foot and recently by water because of our marina, so we figured why not by air? This stretch of riverfront and sand bluff cliffs allows for a very dimensional view of the beauty of Fall.”


For more information on Helicopter Rides and Heritage Harbor Ottawa, contact Tammy Barry at 815-433-5000, ext 1.

Local Stops on the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail

Have you heard about the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail?  It is quickly becoming a popular Midwest beer destination along the Illinois’ historic I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor.  The trail surrounds more than a dozen breweries from Chicago Portage to Starved Rock State Park.   Here breweries are making unique beer that you just can’t get anywhere else.  You can experience the culture of small towns and the exclusive flavors of that specific area!  Radium City Brewing in Ottawa is one of these breweries.  Its beers are available at our own Red Dog Grill!  Another local stop mentioned is Tangled Roots Brewing Company.  Did you know that it is one of the few US craft breweries that grows its own hops and barley?  Exciting things are happening in our own backyard!

Click here to read the full article from Heritage Corridor Ale Trail.

Winter Bucket List: Snowmobiling Outside Chicago

Winter brings with it the opportunity for amazing outdoor adventures for people who are brave enough to get outside and get active.  One of the hottest winter activities is snowmobiling, which offers you the opportunity to see incredible sights while getting an adrenaline high riding a snowmobile.   Hopefully mother nature will cooperate soon so winter can be enjoyed to the fullest!

Ottawa, IL Snowmobiling
Under 90 minutes outside of Chicago, the Illinois and Michigan Canal offers snowmobiling trails that crisscross four Northern Illinois State Parks. The Canal passes through parts of the Channahon State Park, William G. Stratton State Park, Gebhard Wood State Park and Buffalo Rock State Park, delivering over 61 miles of white powder. As long as there are four or more inches of snow, the Canal trails are available for use by snowmobiles 24 hour a day.

The scenic town of Ottawa offers easy on/off highway access to Buffalo Rock, at which point drivers can connect to other parts of the trail. Along the way, riders will parallel the twists and turns of the Illinois River. The bare trees allow for scenic river views and potentially the chance to spot wildlife. The canal trail passes historic 1800’s stone aqueducts, the Seneca Grain Elevator, and multiple canal locks.

One of the more unusual attractions on the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail, the Effigy Tumuli, lies near Buffalo Rock State Park. Created in 1983 by artist Michael Heizer, the environmental sculptures evoke Native American burial mounds.

Snowmobile Safety Tips
If you’re new to snowmobiling, packing for the winter excursion can feel intimidating. When you’re out on the trails, you’ll have occasional access to restrooms and land-line telephones in state park rest areas. Other than that, you’ll need to carry in what you need – and carry it out as well.

For small excursions, plan to bring lunch, water, binoculars, goggles, a camera, and extra winter gear. It’s always a smart idea to carry an emergency first aid kit and emergency tool kit, in case something breaks on your snowmobile. Flashlights or head lamps are always a good “just in case” idea, as are flares, a GPS, a whistle, and an emergency radio.

Snowmobiling is a fun and safe winter sport, but there is risk associated with it. To protect your family, do not allow children to ride on a snowmobile if they are under the age of 6. While driving a snowmobile looks cool, youth under age 16 should not be allowed to do it. It takes skill and strength to maneuver a snowmobile, especially if conditions turn icy. Ice makes it difficult to steer and can pose a danger, even for experienced drivers.

Conveniently Located

When getting out of the greater Chicago area for winter recreation, it’s always important to plan for traffic. If your family spends a lot of time cross country skiing or snowmobiling in the winter, or boating in the summer, it can be helpful to purchase a second home in the scenic countryside. Ottawa may be famous as the home of Starved Rock, but this town has a lot to offer year round in terms of recreation, community, and quality of life. Heritage Harbor Ottawa offers riverside accommodation close to Chicago. An hour from Chicago and minutes from Starved Rock, Heritage Harbor offers vacation rental cottages, vacation homes, a marina, and a restaurant. It is the perfect base camp for a snowmobiling vacation or second home.

With such rich year round amenities and points of interest, Ottawa makes the ideal base for winter and summer family fun. Visit now to explore the area, find your favorite trails, and be inspired.

Do You See What I See in Starved Rock Country?

It’s time for Bald Eagle watching!

With mild winter temperatures, it is all the more inviting to get out those trusty binoculars and peer out to catch a glimpse of America’s favorite feathered fowl. Catch the migration of thousands of eagles as they visit Starved Rock Country. The Annual Eagle Watch Weekend in January allows visitors to view the majestic Bald Eagle from atop Starved Rock! Find out more about Eagle watching, a popular event drawing visitors from all over.

Know Before You Go
These white capped birds were once on the verge of extinction and declared an endangered species in 1978. After 40 years of cooperation between various parties and the government, the American Bald Eagle, the nation’s symbol, was removed from the endangered species list. Former President Bush said:

“This great conservation achievement means more and more Americans across the nation will enjoy the thrill of seeing Bald Eagles soar.”

Share the achievement of joint efforts and the resurgence of the Bald Eagle with younger generations. Visitors to Starved Rock Country should know:

•  The American Bald Eagle may perch along tree tops, soar high overhead and sun themselves at river islands or ice floes. Patience is key to successful viewing.

•  How to stay warm. Visitors need to dress in layers. Gloves, hats and boots are recommended. Viewers should take hot beverages with them on an outing. Turn on the car’s heater for brief periods of time to ward off the chill.

•  It is important not to disturb the visiting bald eagles as they need to conserve their energy.

•  Eagles come to the area due to the fish available in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. From late December to March, they make the most of the plentiful food source.

•  Adult bald eagles do not keep company with juveniles when migrating. The first to migrate are the newly fledged eagles.

•  The freezing over of Northern lakes and rivers marks the beginning of fall migration for adult bald eagles. They will then journey south for available fresh water sources. Open sources can include the coast and large rivers located close to dams.

•  Eagles begin their arrival in Illinois in December. They can be found along the Illinois River actively searching for fish. Once waters freeze, they move to the dam. This open water source will then host a staggering and concentrated amount of eagles.

Starved Rock State Park in Illinois remains a respite for the Bald Eagle for a good portion of the year. As winter temps dip, more concentrated numbers of this popular bird can be easily found at the dam. This natural refuge and Heritage Harbor, with a prime location along the Illinois River, makes for ideal locations for birders to watch the Bald Eagle in its natural habitat. Ideal times for viewing activity are from 7am-9am or 4pm-5pm. Bring the family and experience the visual feast together.

A Day at Heritage Harbor Video

Click and enjoy this video tour ~ A Day at Heritage Harbor Ottawa!

Heritage Harbor Ottawa is the premier Marina Resort Community in the heart of Starved Rock Country.  We are conveniently located 90 minutes from downtown Chicago in the historic town of Ottawa.  Our community is nestled along the scenic Illinois river and features charming homes, walk-able neighborhoods, a world-class marina, dining, activities, adventure and amenities.   Watch the video and see the many reasons why, “This is the Place”.

Live Better This May in Ottawa

As new shoots emerge and trees deck themselves out in a canopy of green, you’ll be more likely to see your neighbors and friends out and about being active. Why the trend? May is the month for wellness. It doesn’t need to be on any calendar as it is a natural change that happens with the warming temperatures and inviting natural foliage. How can you take advantage of this magical month? Heritage Harbor has a few suggestions for getting outdoors and sampling the best May has to offer.
Need a Few Suggestions?
Dr. Oz recently mentioned that May is a great month to work on fitness and wellness goals and just enjoying being outdoors in nature. Nicer weather and longer days allow one and all to head outside for a stroll, run or game of tennis. In addition, spring produce kicks in with freshly-grown seasonal produce, such as chives, ramps and other zesty herbs for additional color, flavor and nutrient boost to dishes. Can you hear the call? The Great Outdoors beckons.
90 minutes from Chicago, the Illinois River awaits, cresting along Heritage Harbor and Starved Rock Country. For visitors and residents of Heritage Harbor, take part in a range of activities, all at your own pace.

• Take a stroll or run along the Harbor Walk. Spy the arrival and activity of a number of seasonal birds including the American White Pelican.  Conservation Cove is home to a diverse array of Ottawa’s wildlife.
• Get an early start on your day and enjoy a full day of water activities. Quest, located at the marina, offers kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals. Grab a quick bite at the Marina store and head out for a day of fun in the sun.
• Explore the I&M Canal Trail, a part of American History, connecting parks, historic sites and museums in a 61-mile attraction.
• Get your group together for a playful game of sand volleyball and enjoy the view, a satisfying meal and your favorite brew down at bar and grill, The Red Dog Grill. Loser buys.
Heritage Harbor and the Ottawa area offers activities to promote an active lifestyle. The choice is yours. Gear up for these local area happenings this May: the Starved Rock Marathon and the Virtual Marathon. Take part in hiking, photography activities and more at Starved Rock State Park and Matthiesen State Park. Book a stay at Heritage Harbor to indulge in all of the May action. A range of comfortable residences restore and rejuvenate after a day of doing and exploring the Ottawa area.

A Romantic Getaway Near Starved Rock

Whether you’re planning your honeymoon, an anniversary trip or simply looking to take a romantic getaway, Ottawa has everything you’ll need and more. Nature buffs and city dwellers alike will find romantic ways to relax and have fun while growing closer as a couple. With plenty of events happening regularly throughout the year, there’s never a dull moment.

Your amorous vacation itinerary could include, for example:

A morning hike

There’s no better way to start the day with your loved one than with a peaceful morning hike. Take a trek from Starved Rock Lodge to LaSalle Canyon. Continue on to Eagle Cliff and take a rest on Lover’s Leap for the best view of the majestic eagles.

A river tour

When you return from hiking and have had time to enjoy a delicious breakfast, it’s time to set off on an Ottawa River Cruise. Enjoy the sights on a relaxing boat ride and learn about the natural history of the beautiful Starved Rock State Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take a kayak out for a spin on the Illinois River.

Antique shopping

You’ve come to the right place for all your antique shopping needs. With several antique malls right in the area, you could shop for hours, finding unique items to take back to your family and friends.

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Click now to add more fun to your stay!

A winery tour  

Learn how wine is made from start to finish at two of Illinois’ largest wineries. The August Hill Winery and the Illinois River Winery are conveniently nestled in the heart of Starved Rock Country, and you’ll find that fine wine is a passion here. Admire the work of local artists, taste unique, fine wines and bask in the romantic setting of leather couches, bistro tables, a fireplace and gorgeous Italian tile.

A gourmet dinner

End your day with a delectable meal from any of the fine-dining restaurants in Ottawa. Stop by The Red Dog Grill, The Lone Buffalo, R Grotto Ristorante, Albertos, Woody’s, Monte’s or many other quality area restaurants for quality service and a dinner that won’t disappoint.

With so many options for activities, shopping, food and drink, it’s no wonder Ottawa is a top destination for romantic getaways.

Visit heritageharborottawa.com to start planning your trip today.

Start Planning a Satisfying Summer Vacation in Ottawa


We all know that happiness is a state of mind.

Even though winter temperatures may bring out the homebody in us all, planning for a fun-filled summer vacation is something that the entire family can get in on. The anticipation is all part of the fun!
There is much to consider, as every person has their own preferences. We break down some of the top items to check off of your list for a great summer vacation that has something for everyone.


Your Summer Planning Checklist

Keep this information in a handy location as you begin your summer planning. Planning helps to avoid unnecessary stress and makes it a fun time for everyone.


  1. Pack the essentials early. Include such items as cellphones (and chargers), sunglasses, special hair and body products, medications, sunblock, sandals and more.

  2. Create a list of the places you would like to see or activities to do and save it online or as a hard copy. Include opening times, fees and contact information. Book in advance whenever possible.

  3. Call ahead if you have special needs or requests. Traveling with small children? Check to see whether the paths are stroller-friendly or if there are high chairs and booster seats at area restaurants. For dietary restrictions, review menus online and give dining spots a ring.

  4. Pack the big summer toys and towels a day in advance. Make sure that boogie boards, towels, bathing suits and more are all accounted for and in the car before rushing out on the day of.

  5. Consider an app or online organizer to set reminders and prioritize activities that may need to be done before setting off, such as scheduling pet boarding or picking up laundry.


Talk with your fellow vacation-goers, whether friends, family or lovers, and see what they would enjoy doing and seeing on vacation. Get them involved in the planning.


Heritage Harbor Has It All

Heritage Harbor, in a convenient location only 90 minutes from Chicago, makes a summer vacation location an easy choice. It lies in the heart of Ottawa, Illinois, offering boating activities and special events, groups and activities at and around Starved Rock, and something for everyone, including foodies, wine connoisseurs, and history buffs. You can get out and lay back at Heritage Harbor, enjoying the best of it all.


  1. Reside in a charming cottage:

    The cottages at Heron’s Landing are privately owned and maintained units managed by the Heritage Harbor Ottawa Marina. Deluxe 1 to 2 bedroom, multi-bathroom cottages provide both cottage amenities and resort access to pools, kayaks, paddle boards and boat launches. Shake off the sand and kick back in your own cottage.

  2. Bask in scenic water views:

    Let your eyes rest on the boats as they glide across the waves at the marina or enjoy a tranquil riverside water view. The deepwater marina boasts more than 450 slips, a sand and volleyball picnic area and access to a private island beach and extensive 61-mile trails along the banks of the Illinois River.

  3. Explore dining options and activities at your own pace:

– Indulge appetites at the Red Dog Grill as the kids kick out on the paddle boards. This American restaurant features outdoor dining and live music every Saturday night.

– Summer is one of the best times to explore Starved Rock Country. What a change from the rush of urban life! Slow down and experience the natural, historic and archaeological heritage unique to the Starved Rock area and the many child-friendly and adult programs available at Starved Rock State Park.

–Check out our other blogs to find out about the Downtown shopping along LaSalle Street and Main, fabulous hang-out nooks like Book Mouse, our independent bookstore, and great suggestions for a cup of Joe or a romantic evening out.


Whether you need a weekend getaway or want an extended stay (and who wouldn’t), Heritage Harbor and the Ottawa area make every day of your vacation memorable. A friendly associate is only a phone call away at (815) 433-5000.


Watchful Eyes Await the American White Pelican in Starved Rock Country

All bird watchers and nature lovers should heed the call. Spring is on its way and with it migrating birds worth noting. The American White Pelican, once in danger of extinction, will make its way to Starved Rock Country and the Illinois River. Visitors to Heritage Harbor and the Ottawa area can catch them en route to Starved Rock Country. Find out more about this long-awaited bird and how to find the best locations to await a glimpse of the American White Pelican.

What You Need to Know

These long-billed, majestic fliers can easily adjust to changing wind patterns. Peter Chaswell, of The Verb ‘To Bird’, said,

“Nothing else flies like that [White Pelicans], serene, untroubled, almost daring the air to throw them an updraft so that they can make a subtle, nearly invisible adjustment to their flight feathers and continue unperturbed…”

These birds were once close to extinction but are now rebounding with the ban of DDT and other harmful pesticides. Visitors should know:

  • The American White Pelican is a member of the family order Pelecaniformes and has webbed toes, bills as long as or longer than their heads, and an expandable throat pouch. American White Pelicans have bodies that can be up to 5 feet in length and wing spans approaching 9 feet. They have long necks and white wings with black tips. They arrive Illinois in spring and stay as late as October and take a “V” formation while migrating with flocks that can consist of hundreds to thousands of birds.
  • They will roam nearly 50 miles from base when feeding. Nests will be built in a depression on the ground, though some birds have nested in trees. One to five cream or blue-white eggs are laid and incubate for 28 to 30 days. Both parents feed and care for the young.
  • They are not divers but instead adult birds swim and submerge pouches to gather a meal in shallow water. While swimming, they behave like dabbling ducks, and can tip their heads underwater for fish. They are also known to work as a group to gather fish.
  • The most likely places to spot them on land is along rivers and inland lakes within Illinois. These birds seem to prefer the western part of the state, in particular along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. They can also be spotted in the Chicago area and near large lakes, ponds and even gravel pits throughout the state.

Starved Rock State Park has been welcoming flocks of the American White Pelican for the past decade with a few bachelor pelicans making the park their home most of the year. This area and Heritage Harbor, with its location along the Illinois River, makes for prime locations to feast your eyes on the magnificent American White Pelican. Contact a friendly associate for more information on the best viewing sites at (815) 433-5000.

Bask in Wonder While Waterfront Living on the Illinois River

Waterfront Living on the Illinois River

“We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.”- Mark Twain

Isn’t it time to sit back and gaze up at the night, with the sounds of lapping water at your feet? There is not anything worth more than that peace found while surrounded by the glories of nature.

The Illinois River affords one and all the means of an escape from the ordinary and a return back to oneself. Find out more about this great river and how it has served and continues to serve the people of Illinois.

Some Illinois River History

There is nothing like simply starting at the beginning. The lifeblood of the Illinois ecosystem was formed when glaciers melted and trickled down the valley over 15,000 years ago. The river has seen its share of the first inhabitants and explorers with a rich history of Native American settlement and French exploration. The Illinois River has been a source of natural beauty, transportation, recreation and commerce since the beginnings of human settlement along its embankments. In the past, steamboat captains have made their way from Illinois to Mississippi and then to New Orleans. Today, personal boats and craft can see many of the sites our forefathers did while meandering down the Illinois River.

For those that set out for a drive along the Illinois River, the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway is one of only 126 routes in 44 states to be designated as one of America’s Byways. The route need to offer one or more of six qualities to qualify—nature, scenery recreation, culture, history and archaeology. This byway includes routes on both sides of the river, connecting over 100 nature-based and historical destinations within the stunning valley.

The river and valley formed thousands of years ago can be viewed by land or by water and serves as a gateway to the rich history and nature of Illinois.

The Illinois River Today

Pleasure-seekers turn to the Illinois River to unwind. The Illinois River has seen development that embraces the requirements and small luxuries of modern living, while honoring the beauty of the area. Heritage Harbor in Ottawa is one such place. The state of the art marina has over 450 boat slips and includes access to boat ramps and dry stack storage. Those scheduling a weekend trip or longer can take care of all of their needs at the ship’s store and marina-side bar & grill, The Red Dog Grill.

Its location on the Starved Rock pool of the Illinois River offers visitors world-class boating amenities and picturesque waterfront properties. The area is near two major interstate highways and is only 90 minutes from downtown Chicago, making it a convenient escape from the everyday.

Heritage Harbor Conservation Cove is a sheltered area nestled within Ottawa that provides the perfect spot to spy the wildlife that abounds in the area. Visitors can see egrets, herons and even migrations of the American White Pelican, a species of bird that recently faced the possibility of extinction.

It is here at Heritage Harbor that you can open yourself to the vast beauty of the area and take a wondrous boating tour akin Huck Finn, but with a few more luxuries. Heritage Harbor, the Ottawa area and beyond are yours to explore for those with the inclination and the imagination. Contact a friendly associate for more information on the best loops and residences at (815) 433-5000.

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