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The campground at Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton is rated among the top dozen sites in Illinois. Photos by Chris Young.

Take your pick of the top places to camp, fish in Illinois

May 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM

The State Journal-Register

There are many great places to camp and fish in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages 324 state parks, fish and wildlife areas, state forests and other sites.

Of those, more than 75 sites offer camping opportunities. Many offer a variety of camping experiences from “primitive” sites for tent campers to full-service campgrounds for larger campers, complete with shower houses and other amenities.

To get you started, here is a list of a dozen state sites ranked by the amount of camping revenue they bring in.

1. Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area

20100 Hazlet Park Road, Carlyle, IL 62231. (618) 594-3015
One of the state’s largest campgrounds is located on its largest man-made lake: Carlyle Lake.

DNR leases the land, about 3,000 acres, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The campground features 328 Class A campsites with electrical hookups; 36 Class C campsites for tent camping; and two rental cabins.

Add first-class fishing. Last fall, DNR biologists gushed about the quality of the Carlyle Lake fishery. It is also the site of the Illinois High School Association state bass fishing championship.

2. Rock Cut State Park

7318 Harlem Road, Loves Park, IL 61111. (815) 885-3311

The campgrounds provide electricity at the site and a water hydrant at the beginning of each camping loop. Other facilities such as sanitary dump stations, showers, toilets, boat launch and playground equipment also are provided.

There are 210 Class A premium sites and 60 Class B/S premium sites with showers and access for vehicles.

Fishing on Pierce Lake is popular with most common species available, plus musky and walleye.

3. Starved Rock State Park

P.O. Box 509, Utica, IL 61373. (815) 667-4726

Staved Rock State Park is the state’s most visited park.
It is on the Illinois River near Utica, centrally located between population centers Chicago, Bloomington, Peoria and Rockford.

The campground has 129 Class-A Premium sites. Regular campsites and youth group sites also are available.

Fishing opportunities are on the Illinois River, with boat ramp access at the west end of the park.

Anglers can target sportfish like catfish, white bass, sauger, walleye and crappie.

4. Clinton Lake State Recreation Area

7251 Ranger Road, DeWitt, IL 61735. (217) 935-8722

Clinton Lake is a 5,000-acre cooling lake built for the Clinton Power Station, a nuclear power plant owned by Excelon.

The associated Clinton Lake State Recreation Area is 9,300 acres.

The campground features 17 Class AA campsites, 286 Class A campsites and 5 Class B/S campsites.

The lake is known for its catfish, striped bass and walleye fishing.

5. Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area

11094 Ranger Road, Whittington, IL 62897. (618) 629-2320

Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area is another state facility associated with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir: the 19,000-acre Rend Lake.
The park is 3,300 acres and includes a variety of activities, including camping.

Seventeen primitive tent sites are available, as are 243 sites with electrical hookups and sanitary facilities.

Rend Lake is known for its crappie fishing, and also bass, bluegill and catfish.

6. Chain O’ Lakes State Park

8916 Wilmot Road, Spring Grove, IL 60081. (847) 587-5512

Chain O’Lakes State Park and a nearby Conservation Area stretch across nearly 6,000 acres in McHenry and Lake counties.

Unlike the man-made lakes of central Illinois, this concentration of lakes occurs naturally.

One hundred fifty-one Class A-Premium sites are available. Three Class B-Premium camp areas provide an additional 87 sites. A youth group camp area has a capacity of 150 campers. Three cabins also are available.

Fishing for most common species usually takes place from a boat or fishing pier due to the marshy shoreline.

7. World Shooting Complex

1 Main Event Lane, Suite 510, Sparta, IL 62286. (618) 295-2700

More than 1,000 campsites are available, all with 50-amp electrical service. A public shower building has 20 private stalls.

Reclaimed strip mine lakes have been stocked with bass, bluegill, redear, channel catfish and other popular species.

8. Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area

4201 Shabbona Grove Road, Shabbona, IL 60550. (815) 824-2106

Located just west of Chicago, Shabbona Lake has 150 Class A-Premium campsites. All have electricity, vehicle access and other amenities.

Fishing is good from a boat or on shore.

A selection of common sport fish has been stocked including large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, redear, crappie, channel catfish, walleye, muskie and perch.

Boat motors are limited. Check site regulations.

9. Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area

10149 County Highway 11, Chandlerville, IL 62627. (217) 452-7741

Jim Edgar Panther Creek features a separate equestrian campground for horseback riders. The equestrian campground has 51 sites with electrical service.

The Prairie Lake Campground has 84 campsites. Nineteen of those have water and sewer service at the site.

Nine rental cabins also are available.

Three lakes and a number of ponds provide ample fishing opportunities.

Prairie Lake is known for its largemouth bass.



Questing HIlls equestrian campground at Jim Edgar Panther Creek.


10. Kankakee River State Park

5314 W. Route 102, Bourbonnais, IL 60914. (815) 933-1383

Two campgrounds offer campsites with varying services.

The Potawatomi Campground has 110 Class A sites and two cabins. The

Chippewa Campground has more than 150 sites Classes BE (electricity only, no showers) and C (no electricity or showers).

An equestrian campground is open April 1-Oct. 31.

There are two boat ramps for launching into the Kankakee River. Fishing is good for smallmouth bass, channel catfish, walleye and northern pike.

Boaters are cautioned the river is shallow and rocky. There is a 10-horserpower limit on motors.

11. Moraine View State Recreation Area

27374 Moraine View Park Road, LeRoy, IL 61752. (309) 724-8032
Moraine View offers 137 Class A trailer campsites. All of those have a sanitary station and electricity.

Another 160 campsites from Class A to primitive Class D sites are available.

The park’s lake has five miles of shoreline available for fishing, plus a pier for people with disabilities.

12. Pere Marquette

13112 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, IL 62037. (618) 786-3323
Pere Marquette provides camping experiences from full service to rustic, including 80 Class A sites.

The nearby Illinois and Mississippi rivers provide ample fishing opportunities. Boat ramps and parking are available.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528. Follow him at twitter.com/ChrisYoungPSO.

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