Illinois State Outdoors

Illinois State collage of images.

Select an outdoor activity
State Parks
Camping and Hiking
Hunting and Fishing
Other Outdoor activities

Illinois State Parks

Apple River Canyon State Park
297-acre park It is in the hilly northwest art of Illinois in Jo Daviess County near the Wisconsin border. This scenic canyon area was formed by the action of the winding waters of Apple River. Limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams and wildlife characterize this area which was once a part of a vast sea bottom that stretched from the Alleghenies to the Rockies. Activities: Picnicking, trails, camping and in winter, sledding. For information call: (815)745-3302


Buffalo Rock State Park
Located on a bluff which was once an island in the Illinois River. Now standing majestically on the north bank, this promontory affords a magnificent sweeping view of the Illinois River. Located approximately three miles west of Ottawa in LaSalle County, this park has long been a favorite picnic area, as well as a nature lovers delight. The area of Buffalo Rock was the home of the Illinois Indians when Louis Jolliet, the French explorer, and the Jesuit missionary priest Father Jacques Marquette made their trip up the Illinois River in 1673. Later the Illinois Tribe was virtually annihilated in protracted warfare with the aggressive Iroquois. Activities: picnicking, trails and camping. For information call: (815)433-2220


Beaver Dam State Park
Located in Macoupin County 7 miles southwest of Carlinville and situated in an oak/hickory woodland, Beaver Dam State Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities on its 750 acres. Fishing, picnicking, hiking, and tent and trailer camping are among the most popular activities. Although the beaver is virtually gone from this area, the park is named for a beaver dam that created its lake. For information call: (217)854-8020


Wolf Creek State Park
Eight miles northwest of Windsor, the sites encompass 11,100 acres of water, 250 miles of shoreline and large tracts of carefully maintained indigenous woodlands ideal for camping, horseback riding, snowmobiling, boatfishing, water skiing, pontoon boating, windsurfing or just plain bobbing and drifting on the glittering expanse of the lake itself. In addition to visiting the small, friendly wooded campgrounds or taking part in the action on the lake, swimming is available from the beach. You can also take a leisurely stroll through nearby forests. An abundance of deer, pheasant, rabbits, wild turkey and songbirds are almost always visible. For information call: (217)459-2831


Cave-In-Rock State Park
204-acre park There are lots of activities to enjoy. Two established trails of moderate hiking difficulty, Hickory Ridge and Pirates Bluff, are available for hiking along with other unmarked trails. Picnic areas are sprinkled throughout the park in shaded areas, with three playground areas nearby. Four large picnic shelters are located within the park for the convenience of our visitors. Two new launching ramps and a new parking area for boaters are located on the western boundary of the park where visitors may enjoy boating, fishing and other water sports on the beautiful Ohio River. For information call: (618)289-4545


Camping and Hiking in Illinois

Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park
Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park is located in a part of Illinois that was a vast shallow sea millions of years ago. Two glaciers covered this part of Illinois, the last being the Wisconsinian Glacier, which shaped the land as we know it today. The Chief Keokuk Campground features 68 pads with electrical hook-ups for trailers (Class A camping), plus 25 tent sites (Class C camping). There is a shower building on site. A sanitary dump station is near the camping area. In addition, there are two sites available for youth group camping. Johnson-Sauk Trail has 10 to 15 miles of trails, ranging from 1/4 mile to 1 1/2 miles in length, from easy to moderate and taking hikers along the lake or through land ranging from rolling prairie to pine plantations and bottomland hardwood forests, so even the pickiest of hikers should find a trail to his or her liking. If added miles are desired, the trails have been designed to connect so you can link one to another. For information call: (309)853-5589


Goose Lake Prairie Natural Area
Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area is a study in contrasts. Tall Grass Nature Trail displays the largest stand of tall grass prairie remaining in Illinois. Marsh Loop Trail shows the ponds and marshes that resulted from the 1890 decision by local farmers to drain Goose Lake. Prairie View Trail takes you to the highest point in Goose Lake Prairie - a strip mine spoil mound - and offers a panoramic view of reclaimed mine areas, prairie and prairie marsh. One of the best ways to experience Goose Lake Prairie is to hit the trails. With 7 miles of hiking trails including a floating bridge, you'll have ample opportunity for viewing the plants and animals that make the area unique. Prairie View Trail, with 3.5 miles of moderate hiking, goes along a prairie and through a prairie restoration. As its name implies, Prairie View gives you an overview of the prairie. Visible are strip mine reclamation areas, low-lying marshes. You'll also note two power plants outside Goose Lake Prairie's borders. Nearby, Heidecke Lake, whose hunting and fishing programs are managed by the state, serves as a cooling pond for the Collins Station Plant. Tall Grass Nature Trail is a self-guiding trek that winds through the prairie and the trail's trademark grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass, which can get to be 8 feet in height. Depending on the route you decide to take, the trail can be 1 or 3.5 miles long. One loop offers a hard-packed, wheelchair-accessible surface. The half-mile Marsh Loop Trail is located within the nature preserve and lets you see the effects of a turn-of-the-century attempt to gain more farmland by draining Goose Lake: farmers found the drained land, which remained very wet even after the draining, was suitable only for grazing livestock, and some acreage couldn't even be used for that. Keep in mind that one of the major reasons why Goose Lake Prairie survived was that it was generally far too wet to plant crops on. The marsh here was helped along by the decision to drain the lake, and today is home to all kinds of wetlands wildlife. Trails are available for cross-country skiing in the winter. Check the visitor center for maps. For information call: (815)942-2899


Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area
The area consists of 2,700 acres of grass, forest and cropland, and provides excellent wildlife habitat. There are 35 miles of marked scenic equestrian, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails in the Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area, and nine miles of designated hiking trails are available at nearby Kickapoo State Park. All marked trails are accessible from the parking lot near the office at 2400N, just off Road 900E. The Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife area has Class C, D, and equestrian camping facilities. Other classes of camping also are available at nearby Kickapoo State Park. The state park facilities are readily accessible from the Kickapoo canoe take-out point at the park's west entrance. Kickapoo is located five miles south of the Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area. For information call: (217)442-4915


Washington County Conservation Area
Wildlife abounds in the Washington County Conservation Area located four miles south of Nashville in southern Illinois. Visitors will marvel at the sight of rabbit, quail, squirrel, dove, deer and woodcock among the stands of pines, brushy draws and fallow fields. The beautiful Washington County Lake makes this site a special place for relaxing or fishing. Whether boating on its 248 acres, or fishing or hiking its 13-mile shoreline, the lake offers a perfect opportunity for family fun. Whether camping, hunting, fishing, boating, hiking or picnicking, you will find Washington County Conservation Area has what you are looking for. Enjoying the out-of-doors is easy with tent and trailer spaces readily accessible. Electricity and disposal are available for trailers. A shower building is also located in the camping area. For an invigorating walk, a seven-mile-long, marked trail is available. This trail circles the lake and hikers can enjoy viewing the majestic trees, beautiful wildflowers or the numerous birds and animals residing in the area. For information call: (618)327-3137


The Cache River State Natural Area
This large state-owned and managed area is 11,768 acres and is composed of two distinct management units, including the Little Black Slough and the Lower Cache, situated on the Cache River in Johnson and Pulaski counties. Little Black Slough lies on the Upper Cache River north of Belknap, while Lower Cache is along the stretch of Lower Cache River from Karnak to Perks. The main objective at Cache River State Natural Area is to preserve, protect and enhance the natural resources while providing the opportunity for quality outdoor recreation. Critical habitat is managed to preserve and protect endangered, threatened and rare plants and animals. In addition, three areas have been dedicated as Illinois Nature Preserves to ensure permanent protection of examples of some of the outstanding natural communities characteristic of deep southern Illinois. Compatible outdoor recreational uses include sightseeing, birding, hiking, hunting, fishing and canoeing. The area is also available for scientific research and educational use by permit. There are 18 miles of designated foot trails on the Cache River State Natural Area. Mileage is figured on roundtrip distance totals. For information call: (618)634-9678


Hunting and Fishing in Illinois

Wolf Creek State Park
An abundance of deer, pheasant, rabbits and wild turkey. Call for information on hunting. The miles of flood brush, timber and rock rip-rap shorelines, the many points with submerged ridges, and the hundreds of tributary streams emptying into Lake Shelbyville provide prime and productive fishing areas. The lake is teeming with black and white crappie, largemouth bass, walleye, channel and flathead catfish, bluegill, muskie, bullhead, carp and sunfish. Special size and creel limits are in effect for some species, so please check with the site superintendent's office for specific information on fishing opportunities and regulations. For information call: (217)459-2831


Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area
Abundant with fish and wildlife, Banner Marsh provides various outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, boating, dog training, picnicking, wildlife observation and photography. Whether you prefer bank fishing or boat fishing, walleye or channel catfish fishing, you won't run out of fishable water at Banner Marsh. With more than 200 clear water bodies holding numerous species of fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, crappie, bluegill, redear, green sunfish and channel cat, fishing is a common interest among many who visit the area. The site's three fish brooding ponds, extensive stocking efforts and site-specific size and creel limits, posted at all three public access areas, will ensure a well-balanced fishery for today's angler and future generations. Boat fishing is prohibited during waterfowl season, but bank fishing is allowed after 1 p.m. daily. Fishing is otherwise permitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During hunting seasons Banner Marsh is a very popular place with Illinois outdoorsmen. Diverse in habitat, wildlife species and management practices, Banner Marsh offers a variety of hunting opportunities including waterfowl, dove, upland game and deer (archery only). For information call: (309)647-9184


Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area
Fishing and hunting will be permitted on a seasonal basis and are subject to various site regulations. Fishing will close 2 weeks prior to the Central Waterfowl Zone season and reopen at the conclusion of the Upland Game season-January 1st or as the ice becomes safe. For information call: (815)237-0063


Sanganois Fish and Wildlife Area
Sanganois is managed primarily to protect, develop and manage the lands and water of this area, to provide a refuge for migratory waterfowl and a public duck hunting area. With the exception of the refuge areas and that portion developed for waterfowl hunting, the remainder of Sanganois Fish and Wildlife Area is open to upland and forest game hunting. Periodic flooding of the area causes populations of these species to fluctuate sporadically; however, during normal years squirrel, deer and raccoon populations provide good hunting. Rabbit and quail populations provide fair to poor hunting. Large members of rough fish such as carp, buffalo, catfish and bullhead are commercially caught and sold annually from these waters. Sport fishing for bass, crappie and bluegill is very popular during the summer and fall months. For information call: (309)546-2628


Ten Mile Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area
Fishing is a popular use of Ten Mile Creek SFWA. Access to the strip pit lakes is provided by gravel boat ramps and parking areas. The lakes contain populations of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Of the wildlife that inhabit the site, the following species may be hunted in the appropriate season: cottontail rabbit, bobwhite quail, mourning dove, geese, ducks, deer, squirrel, turkey, and furbearers. Hunting is allowed through an annual site permit, which can be obtained through the site office. For information call: (618) 643-2862.


Other Illinois Outdoor activities

Illinois also offers the following outdoor activities:
  • Winter Sports
  • Canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Picnicking
  • Bicycling
  • Cave Exploring
  • Rock Climbing
  • Golf