The city of Sterling, Illinois was incorporated in 1857. Situated along the banks of the Rock River and surrounded almost entirely by very fertile ground, the area around Sterling was well known as prime farming land by the first settlers and the Native Americans. Sterling’s early settlers also took advantage of the Rock River and used it as a means of transporting their goods to larger cities throughout Illinois. Eventually, with the arrival of the railroads, the Rock River’s days as a transportation artery came to an end. Today, the Rock River is mostly a recreational hub that contains some of the best catfish in the state.
Sterling’s natural landscape is the city’s biggest attraction. The Sinnissippi Dam Walkway is a scenic path ideal for bicyclists and joggers. Martin’s Landing lets visitors relax and take in breathtaking views of the Rock River. The 150-acre Sinnissippi Park offers nature trails, fishing spots, disc golf, hiking and cross-country skiing during the winter. Within the park’s boundaries is the Hopewellian Indian Mounds, a former burial area for Native Americans that is now on the Register of National Historic Places.