Friday, May 24, 2013

(Photos) The former Swallow Cliff toboggan slides in Palos Park

I grew up on Palos Heights, Illinois, which is southwest of Chicago. The town to the west of us was Palos Park. Not many people even in the Chicago area were familiar with either, but if I brought up the Swallow Cliff toboggan slides, which were operated by the Cook County Forest Preserve District--I'd often hear in reply, "Oh, that place...I love the slides."

Those slides opened in the 1950s, but the county closed them in 2004--they were demolished four years later.

Swallow Cliff on Mother's Day. On the left are the stairs to the top of the cliff, which fitness buffs use for workouts. There are 126 steps to the top. Swallow Cliff isn't really a cliff, but a moraine--debris left behind by a retreating glacier.

When the toboggan run was operating, there was a warming house which doubled as a toboggan rental facility. Yes, there was a roaring fire--just like at a ski lodge. However, it was with great pride that my father purchased our own toboggan.

Almost at the top. When I was a track and cross country runner for Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, the stairs were one of our regular training routes, which we dubbed the Palos Loop.

I've reached the summit. The stairs are in much better shape than they were in my high school days. When I watch Frodo, Sam, and Gollum climb Cirith Ungol in the Lord of the Rings, I always think of the days I ran up the Swallow Cliff stairs.

The entrance way to the slide runs are barricaded.

The onetime command center of the toboggan slides is now obscured by planted shrubs.

While the slides are gone, Swallow Cliff is enjoyed as a sledding hill during the winter. has a bunch of photos of the toboggan slides right here.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My brothers and I grew up in Orland Park and Lockport in the 70s and went to the toboggan slides every winter. We have the best memories of those days. I remember the free fall, you couldn't scream. My brother put his hand out one time to slow us down and skinned his knuckles through his gloves because of the concrete walls. We live in Colorado now and was surprised to see it was closed. What memories!!!!!