Matthiessen roadway to dells reopened after 4 months of work

Tourist officials hope for boost in visits after slowdown

Want to visit the Matthiessen dells? There’s no need to hike in from the river area any longer: The road to the dells is finished.

Alvin Harper, complex superintendent for Matthiessen and Starved Rock state parks, confirmed Tuesday construction of the roadway has been sufficiently completed to readmit visitor vehicles.

“The roadway is open and the major work is done except for some grading and seeding,” Harper said.

The contractor notified the Illinois Department of Natural Resources late last week the roadway could be opened even as the finish-up work is completed.

Besides improving the roadway, the contractor has added a concrete walkway accessible from the parking lot. This gives families with strollers and those using wheelchairs access to natural beauty without any steps or stairs.

Tourist officials in La Salle County welcomed the news, as park attendance was, predictably, hurt by the road closure. Through the end of July, attendance at Matthiessen was down 37% from last year and poised to just pass 200,000 visitors by year’s end. That would be the lowest total in 38 years.

Fortunately, Utica has several events lined up that should jump-start Matthiessen’s autumn attendance — starting with the Craft Beer Festival this weekend — and keep 2022 from going down as park’s worst year on record.

“Any improvements we can make to the state parks are a positive for us because they’ll bring in visitors,” said Jamie Turczyn, director of village affairs.