Much of the river still looks as tranquil and unspoiled as it did when
the first French explorers traveled through this area in their birch bark
canoes. Sometimes you feel as if you have transported back in time when
Potawatomis and Illini tribes hunted, fished, and farmed along the Fox River.
At the confluence of the Big and Little Rock creeks, there is the 100 foot
rhigh Merimack Hill. A granite marker atop the hill commemorates the
annihilation of 300 Fox Indians by an army of 300 French and 900
of their Indian allies in 1730.
Early maps show the river as the "Postekouy" which means buffalo. Robert
Cavalier, and Sieur de LaSalle, passed through this area during their
explorations from 1680 to 1684. Henri de Tonti, a lieutenant, refers
to the river as the "Pestagonky" in his journal. Later the French named it
"Riviere du Rocher" because of the large rock formations and bluffs. It is now
called the Fox in honor of the tribe almost wiped out on Merimack Hill.
The Fox River offers a unique and memorable itinerary with every kind of landscape from sun drenched praries to the dark forest. Just downstream from Merimack Hill, on the right bank, is an old stone mill structure along with ruins of the dam. Between Sheridan and Ayers Landing there are magnificent outcroppings of Cambrian rock, which is the oldest rock exposure in the state. These rock formation palisades are prevalent along the Fox, and are as scenic as anywhere in the Midwest.
One of the most pleasant aspects of the Fox River Canoe Trail is the close contact you will have with wildlife and vegetation in their natural habitat. It is not uncommon to cross paths with beaver, muskrat, deer, and fox, in or near the river. After awhile down the river, you may spot a bullfrog croacking, a fish jumping clean out of the water, or a hawk flying high overhead. Cliff swallows can be seen flying in and out of their myriad of perching holes in the massive st. Peters sandstone cliffs, which are numerous between the Rt. 52 bridge and Ayers Landing. In addition, there are at least five species of evergreens, and many varieties of ferns, mosses, and wild flowers. This can make your canoe outing a botanical and zoological experience.