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Ottawa is located in north central Illinois in La Salle County (of which it is the county seat) east of La Salle and just south of Interstate 80 where the Fox River empties into the Illinois River. The town is only minutes from Starved Rock State Park, Matthiesen State Park and Buffalo Rock State Park & Effigy Tumili for those who enjoy the outdoors. In addition, golfers will want to take on Dayton Ridge Golf Course.

Ottawa has several popular events throughout the year including the "Ottawa Riverfest", which is a 10-day celebration held during the last of July and the first of August, and the "Scarecrow Festival", held the first weekend in October.

The population estimate for July 1, 1998 was 18,026, an increase of 452 since 1990.

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