Picture Worthy and Vacation Ready Starved Rock Lodge and State Park

“We’ve always assumed that Starved Rock State Park was one of the most beautiful places in America, but now that Travel Lens has completed a study ranking it the seventh most-instagrammed state park in the country we can brag about it.” Said Frank Pikus, CEO of ExplorUS.

Starved Rock is located in LaSalle County, Illinois, along the south bank of the Illinois river. A popular Midwestern destination, it is home to various canyons, hiking trails, and overlooks. Visitors can indulge in fishing, boating, camping, and more at Starved Rock, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.

What else does Starved Rock State Park have to offer?  Plenty.  Sitting right in the middle of this picture worthy stat park is the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center.  Listed on the register of national historic places it was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp and features a massive log constructed great hall with one of the largest two-sided stone fireplaces in the country.  The 92-room hotel (and cabins) also features a bar, restaurant, gift shop, café, pool, and banquet facilities.  The property is managed by a company called ExporUS, based out of Overland Park Kansas.

In addition to the 13.1 miles of beautiful hiking, waterfalls, and canyons right outside the Lodge’s front doors, guests can also enjoy themed dinners, trolley tours, live music, children’s events and much more.  “It really is a great outdoor destination that people of all ages can enjoy.” said Pikus.  “The really cool thing about Starved Rock is that it is different in every season.  Ice falls in the winter, amazing fields of wildflowers in the spring, beautiful colors in the fall and a host of fun activities and events at the Lodge year-round.”

Starved Rock State Park has over 102,801 Instagram posts and can be found under the hashtag #starvedrock.   Lodging and dining information can be found at www.starvedrocklodge.com

ExplorUS is a hospitably management company overseeing over 60 concessions in National Parks, National Forests, State and County Parks across the country.  They took over management of Starved Rock Lodge in 2021. For more information about ExplorUS visit www.goexplorus.com

Contact: Amy Trimble, VP Marketing
[email protected]

Illinois Beach Hotel Welcomes New Manager

Zion, IL,  – The Illinois Beach Hotel is pleased to welcome Donald Hamilton as the new General Manager for the hotel located in the Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park.   

Originally from Sonoma County California, Don earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Don worked for 5 years in the film industry before returning to his hospitality roots. With over 15 years in the business, Don has led successful teams at several hotels, spas, and golf resorts throughout the country.  

Don will oversee the management of the 92-room property along with the restaurant, banquet facility, and retail outlets.  The hotel, which re-opened for business in 2022, has been redecorated with new room and lobby furnishings and features a brand-new concession (Pavilion) complete with camping supplies, souvenirs, and a food counter. The Pavilion should be open for business late this Spring. 

“We are very pleased to have Don join our team at Illinois Beach Hotel”, said Frank Pikus, CEO of ExplorUS (previously Ortega National Parks). “He brings a great deal of experience and enthusiasm to the position, and we expect a lot of growth under his guidance”. 

“Creating new events, developing room packages, and meeting fellow business leaders in my new community are at the top of my to do list this spring,” said Don.  “My wife, Kathy, and I are looking forward to becoming part of the Zion community and welcoming everyone in the area back to the beach”. 

For more information on the Illinois Beach Hotel please visit www.illinoisbeachhotel.com.  

Zion, Illinois
Contact: Amy Trimble, VP Marketing
[email protected]

New Company to Manage Echo Bluff Lodge Concessions

EMINENCE, MO, JAN. 11, 2023 – ExplorUS, formally Ortega National Parks, a hospitality management company operating in parks across the country, will manage the lodging, dining, retail and banquet facilities at the Echo Bluff State Park beginning this year.

Echo Bluff started out as a summer youth camp called Camp Zoe over 85 years ago and is now a year-round outdoor destination where visitors create memories as they experience all the Ozarks have to offer. The impressive lodge is just 5 years old and features hotel rooms and cabins, meeting space, a dining room and retail area.

The new concession company, ExplorUS, is thrilled to add Echo Bluff to its portfolio and has committed to adding new activities and events, such as girls’ getaways, stargazing, arts and craft shows and more. 

“We can’t wait to start working at Echo Bluff,” said Frank Pikus, CEO of ExplorUS.  “Our team is excited to start developing new programs that will interest Missouri patrons as well as draw new travelers to the area.  We are especially happy that many of the previous employees have chosen to stay with us which should assist with a smooth transition for those folks that frequent the hotel and restaurant on an annual basis.”

“We’d like to thank Guest Services for their time working at Echo Bluff,” said David Kelly, director of the Division of Missouri State Parks. ““We are excited to work with ExplorUS and look forward to the new opportunities they will offer our guests,”

ExplorUS is dedicated to preserving and protecting the unique environments and precious resources of the sites where it operates, allowing guests and future generations to experience the beauty, serenity, and splendor of local, state, and national parks. It provides concession services at 50 locations nationwide including four other Missouri State Parks: Lake of the Ozarks, Montauk, Sam A. Baker and Lake Wappapello. You can find out more about ExplorUS at www.goexplorus.com

Rooms and cabins are available for rent year-round. More information can be found at echobluffstatepark.com or by calling 855-999-6980

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Loretta Bittle –[email protected]
Amy Trimble – [email protected]

Hawaii Volcano House | Halema’uma’u Crater

Hawaii Volcano House Hotel in Hawaii is a historical retreat with 33 guest rooms, 10 cabins and 16 campsites located in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Halema’uma’u crater continues to erupt here in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Our incredible staff at Hawaii Volcano House snapped the photo of the crater erupting. The eruption brings excitement to the community and staff, and the crater remains a must see in Hilo. To learn more about Hawaii Volcano House follow the button below.

Tourism Management Company Redefines Service

Overland Park, KS – During the holiday season, customer service isn’t just about providing great service at hotels, restaurants, and marinas. At least not for ExplorUS, an Overland Park company that manages several tourism related businesses in national and state parks across the country.   Last week 38 members of the corporate team volunteered their time and expertise to assist the Johnson County Christmas Bureau at their annual Holiday Shop.

ExplorUS staff members spent part of Thursday and Friday spreading holiday cheer by working in various shopping departments such as infant products/toys, home health care, winter coats and groceries.   CEO, Frank Pikus said, “We all had a really great time assisting our neighbors with their holiday shopping and seeing the excitement and appreciation on so many faces.  At ExplorUS, we believe that giving back to our community is as important to our mission as customer service.  All our actions, services, and interactions are grounded in being “Good Hosts,” a philosophy we have developed in our decades of experience.”

The Johnson County Christmas Bureau is a grassroots volunteer charity that provides warmth and support, during the winter holiday season to low-income Johnson County, Kansas families.  With over 150 volunteers serving 3000 hours the group is able to support 12,000 low-income neighbors each year.  For information on how to donate or support to this wonderful organization please visit www.jccb.org.

ExplorUS, a customer serviced based hospitality company has been in business since 1995.  With an emphasis on stewardship their mission is to safeguard natural, historic, and cultural resources while making every moment matter for associates and guests.  For more information about ExplorUS, visit www.goexplorus.com.

Press Release
Overland Park, IL
Contact: Amy Trimble, VP Marketing
[email protected]
December 14, 2022

Kansas Based Company Manages Interesting and Diverse Sites

When you’re featured in People Magazine, it must be a thing, right?  Have you ever thought about sledding, without snow?  Or how about sledding in shorts, with no shoes or mittens? People Magazine recently featured the White Sands National Park in New Mexico as #5 out of 25 Things to Do, Eat & See! The park covers 275 miles of the New Mexico desert and features wave like dunes where people sled on the super soft gypsum mineral powder that looks like snow, but certainly doesn’t feel like it. 

The White Sands Trading Company, which is managed by a Kansas based corporation called ExplorUS, sells the sleds featured in the May issue.  ExplorUS, located in Overland Park, provides oversight to almost 60 concession businesses located in National, State and Local Parks across the United States.  Additionally, they manage approximately 300 campgrounds and marinas in National Forests.

The corporate office employees work behind the scenes to help promote, manage, stock, and maintain the wide variety of tourism concessions which include lodges, restaurants, caves, boat rentals, gift shops, trolley tours, dinner theaters, and yes, even sand sledding.   “We are so fortunate to work in such an exciting and diverse industry,” commented Frank Pikus, CEO of ExplorUS.  “On a daily basis, the corporate staff might be discussing purchasing new boats for one of our marinas, be looking for a Santa to entertain kids at a holiday party or be working on blueprints for new cabins in a National Park. There really isn’t a dull moment in our office. “  

ExplorUS, a customer serviced based hospitality company has been in business since 1995 and takes pride in being stewards of the parks they work in.  “We strive to create grand adventures for our guests while reducing the impact on local ecosystems,” said Pikus.  “We are committed to preserving and protecting the unique environments and precious resources where we operate.”

For more information about ExplorUS, visit www.goexplorus.com

Contact: Amy Trimble, VP Marketing
[email protected]
October 1, 2022

Hottest Place on Earth Managed by Overland Park Company

All the news for the past few weeks has been about the heat.  The Economist published “Heat is causing problems across the world”.   China reported that a bridge was buckling because of the heat. There are triple digits across the United States causing fires and a city park in Pennsylvania extended their pool hours because it was so hot out. (Okay that last one is kind of cool). But have you ever really thought about living and working in the heat?

A company in Overland Park, Kansas known as ExplorUS provides operational support for a hotel, restaurant and gift shop in Death Valley National Park, the hottest place on earth according to the Conde Nast Traveler.  The National Park is actually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s hottest recorded temperature of 134 degrees in 1913.  Today’s temperature was only 110 degrees but will be up to 115 by this time next week.  The property, located in Stovepipe Wells Village, employs around 75 people during peak season and is open 365 days per week; rain, shine and heat.

ExplorUS functions as a support company providing oversight of National, State, and Local Park and Forest Concessions across the country.  They have their corporate offices in Overland Park where over 50 people work in support of marinas, campgrounds, lodges, retail shops, caves, and a variety of other outdoor recreation areas.

“ExplorUS has operated park concessions for over 30 years”, said Frank Pikus, CEO. “We work to enhance the visitor’s experience while protecting the natural and historical aspects of the parks in which we operate.”  The company chose Overland Park for its corporate headquarters because of the centralized location in the United States, also known as The Heart of America. Not to mention the city’s great work environment.  “Overland Park is a lovely place to work and live,” said Pikus.  “While the city continues to grow it still manages to feel like a community.  There are great places to eat and shop, and the parks are beautiful which is really important to someone in the “park” business.”

As a customer service-based business, ExplorUS believes that employees are their most important natural resource.  The company offers competitive pay, excellent benefits, opportunities for advancement and adventure.  It is one of the few companies in the country that offers the great outdoors as their primary workstation.

For more information about ExplorUS visit www.goexplorus.com  

Press Release
Overland Park, IL
Contact: Amy Trimble, VP Marketing
[email protected]

New Restaurant, Nolan’s, Open Inside Illinois Beach State Park

Nolan’s Restaurant at the Illinois Beach Hotel officially opened on July 5th, 2022, and is already getting great reviews.

Open to the public, Nolan’s offers a full menu for lunch and dinner. The dinner menu features some locally sourced products and includes items such as: Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Curds, Nolan’s Signature Cranberry Kale Salad, Salmon, Chicago Stockyard Ribeye, Michigan Whitefish Pomodoro, pastas, chops, and more. The lunch menu features burgers, a Wisconsin Brat, Nolan’s Famous Fish Tacos, and a wide variety of salads and sandwiches. Full menus can be found at www.illinoisbeachhotel.com/dining.

Nolan’s Restaurant is open to the public and offers lunch and dinner daily. Breakfast will be added in the next several weeks. “We are thrilled about the opportunity to reopen the Illinois Beach Hotel and its new restaurant Nolan’s,” said VP of Marketing, Amy Trimble. “Our desire is to support and enhance the community by bringing back events such as Sunday and Holiday Brunches, as well as offering a few new and interesting dining and entertainment concepts. We want folks to know our hospitality extends beyond just our out-of-town guests, and that we are grateful to be able to serve the local community as a whole”.

Reservations can be made by calling 224-259-2600. Walk-ins are welcome. Lunch and Dinner are being served from 11am to 8pm daily indoors or out on the patio overlooking the lake.

Facebook Reviews:
“Had the pleasure of meeting Jenny at Nolan’s restaurant. She was gracious to fill us in on what’s been happening at what I call a “hidden gem”. She made us feel very welcomed along with Liz our server. Food was great, fresh, and decent portion sizes. We will be back and look forward to trying more items on the menu!” – Lynn I.

“Delicious & Fresh food. Large portions. Great menu choices, from burgers to fresh fish. Shareable appetizers. Hidden gem!”- Donna C.

Like the Illinois Beach Hotel on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Illinois-Beach-Hotel

The Illinois Beach Hotel as well as Starved Rock Lodge and White Pines Lodge are all proud properties of ExplorUS (previously Ortega National Parks).

ExplorUS is a hospitality management company with over 50 properties across the United States. If you are interested in working for the Illinois Beach Hotel or another property within the ExplorUS family, please go to: www.goExplorUs.com

Visit our website illinoisbeachhotel.com for updated information, menus, and hours. Illinois Beach Hotel re-opened and is inviting you back to the beach.

Amy Trimble
+1 815-238-8672

Allegany Concessions Under New Management

Salamanca, NY – Allegany Hospitality, part of a hospitality management company operating in parks across the country, has been awarded the concessions for the Red House and Quaker areas inside the largest state park in New York, Allegany State Park.  

Allegany State Park is a 65,000-acre primitive forest valley known for its beautiful views, wildlife, and exciting activities. There are many ways to enjoy the Red House and Quaker Run area including scenic picnic sites, museums, hiking and biking trails, fishing, and much more. 

Allegany Hospitality will oversee concessions inside the Red House Administration Building including The Red House Restaurant and gift shop, as well as bike and boat rentals at Red House Lake and the General Stores at the Red House and Quaker Areas. The General Stores are not only convenient for souvenir shopping, but also for campers who forgot any groceries or camping equipment. Don’t forget to try the mozzarella sticks at the Quaker Run Snack Shack!  

“We are so pleased to be adding Allegany to our list of properties,” said Frank Pikus, Chief Executive Officer. “A visit to this lovely park is not complete without a stop for dining at the Red House Restaurant or picking up a t-shirt at the Quaker Run General Store.  We have hired a wonderful staff to oversee these sites and are anticipating a successful summer season with years to follow”. 

The hospitality group is passionate about preserving and protecting the unique environments and precious resources where it operates.  With that in mind, they have partnered with the Friends of Allegany and are helping to sell ‘Save the Red House Sawmill’ raffle tickets at both the Red House Gift Shop and Quaker General Store.  

Red House Restaurant, gift shop and boathouse hours can be found at  www.alleganyhospitality.com 

Like us at Allegany State Park Hospitality on Facebook. 

Contact: Amy Trimble, VP Marketing
[email protected]
June 2022

ExplorUS will operate Lake Wappapello State Park concessions

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JULY 6, 2022 —  ExplorUS, formally Ortega National Parks, a hospitality management company operating in parks across the country, will manage lodging and limited retail operations in Lake Wappapello State Park for Missouri State Parks beginning this year. 

Covering more than 1,800 acres in southeastern Missouri, Lake Wappapello State Park features cool, clear waters where anglers can cast their lines for white bass, crappie, and bluegill, as well as largemouth bass and catfish. The park welcomes more than 125,000 anglers, campers, swimmers, and hiking enthusiasts each year. The park also contains modern cabins with kitchens, rustic camper cabins, and more than 20 miles of hiking trails.

“We are so pleased to be adding Lake Wappapello to our list of Missouri properties,” said Frank Pikus, chief executive officer of ExplorUS. “This lovely park has great outdoor opportunities and the two- and three-bedroom cabins bring nature right to our guests’ door. We have hired a wonderful staff to oversee the cabin rentals and anticipate having a very successful season.” 

“We look forward to our partnership with ExplorUS at Lake Wappapello State Park,” said David Kelly, director of Missouri State Parks. “ExplorUS offers a variety of amenities and will help visitors have a state park experience filled with wonderful memories.”

ExplorUS is dedicated to preserving and protecting the unique environments and precious resources of the sites where it operates, allowing guests and future generations to experience the beauty, serenity, and splendor of local, state, and national parks. It provides concession services at 50 locations nationwide including three other Missouri State Parks;  Lake of the Ozarks, Montauk, and Sam A. Baker. You can find out more about ExplorUs at www.goexplorus.com 

Cabins are available for rent from April 1 through Oct. 31, 2022. More information can be found at https://lakewappapellomo.com/ or by calling 888-543-2490.

Lake Wappapello State Park is located at 8005 State Highway 172 in Williamsville, Missouri. For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Loretta Bittle, 573-526-0978
[email protected]