Lake Michigan, the third largest of the five Great Lakes of North America spanning across the entire west coast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula borders the states of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Chicago is the biggest city on Lake Michigan and the 26 miles of scenic lakefront features local parks, gardens, and an 18-mile Lakefront Trail coupled with picturesque beaches, and a port along its shoreline. Visitors can indulge in water and outdoor activities or spend an afternoon lounging near the beaches.
Area : 22,394 mi²
Width : 118.1 mi
Maximum depth : 281 m
Fish : Bowfin, Yellow perch, Smallmouth bass, Lake trout, Largemouth bass
Activities : Stand up Paddle Board, Rent jet skis and boat, Visit Castaways for a drink, rent a bike from Divvy and go for a ride, Fireworks display at Navy pier, lakeshore boat tour, Dinner Cruise.
Best Way to travel : Via Ferry saves time and avoids traffic congestion. (Lake Express ferry, Milwaukee- Muskegon fast ferry)
Rend Lake located in southern Illinois, spanning up to 19,000 acres offers a variety of fun-filled recreational activities. It is a freshwater lake featuring 162 miles of shoreline and 20,000 acres of forests, wetlands, and meadows - making it a favorable spot to observe the wildlife with its rich Flora and Fauna. The lake also features a paved bike trail of 20+ miles, over 500 campsites in 4 different campground areas, and a 27 hole golf course.
Location : Franklin/ Jefferson counties, Illinois, U.S.
Area : 29.53 mi²
Maximum Depth : 35 feet
Length : 12.99 mi
Fish : Bluegill, Blue catfish, Largemouth bass, Channel catfish, Flathead catfish
Activities to do : Nature and Bird watching, golfing, Camping, Biking, Paddling, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, skiing, swimming, Knee boarding, wakeboarding, Visit The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Rend Lake Visitors Center.
Best Way to travel : Via Private Vehicle or Rent a taxi
Lake Shelbyville in central Illinois is a reservoir lake created when the Kaskaskia River was dammed. The lake is rich in flora and fauna, thus the Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area was consequently set up in it’s surrounding area. It also features over 1,000 campsites, three public beaches, Picnic areas, Pavilions, Wildlife management areas, and several recreational areas such as The Forest park, Timberlake Golf course, General Dacey Trail, and more.
315 E Main Shelbyville IL 62565
Area : 17.34 mi²
Average depth : 5.8 miles
Fish : Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Muskellunge
Activities to do : Boating, Swimming, Camping, Fishing, Picnicking
Attractions : Forest Park, Aquatic Center, Chautauqua Auditorium, General Dacey Trail, Memorial Sunken Garden, Lincoln Public Square Eternal Flame, Boarman’s Roxy Theatre, Vahling Vineyards, Timberlake Golf Course.
Lodging : The Guest House, The Shelby Inn, At the Lake, Woolf Creek Lodge.
Carlyle Lake is the largest manmade lake in Illinois and a premier spot for outdoor activities. The lake is popular amongst sailors for its testing condition. Its scenic surrounding coupled with the diverse recreational opportunities such as camping, hunting, fishing, boating makes the lake a perfect gateway destination.
Location : Clinton/ Fayette/ Bond counties, Illinois, U.S.
Max depth : 35 feet
Length : 14.98 miles
Shore length : 85 miles
Fish : Channel catfish, Flathead catfish, white bass, Bluegill, largemouth bass.
Activities to do : Sailing, Fishing, boating, birdwatching, hunting, camping, picnics, golfing.
Lake Sara, located 4 miles west of Effingham is well renowned for its tranquil atmosphere. It has a public beach where you can lounge around during the day and enjoy stunning evenings. The lake also offers engaging outdoor activities such as boating, kayaking, drifting, and tubing. Other amenities include two marinas, two restaurants, a campground, rental areas, and golf courses.
Location : Effingham County, Illinois, United States
Size : 800 acre
Max depth : 47 feet
Shoreline : 27 miles
Fish : Largemouth bass, white and black crappies, channel catfish, yellow bullheads, sunfish, bluegill
Activities : Boating, Kayaking, canoeing, tubing, camping, Fishing, Golfing.
Maple Lake was originally constructed in the 1920s by damming a Ravine. It is a popular fishing spot with 8,000 feet of shoreline that ensures plenty of fishing and camping spots. The Palos Preserves featuring the largest concentration of preserved land in the Forest Preserves surrounds the lake adding to the picturesque scenery coupled with the rich flora and fauna. Visitors can also spot migratory birds during the fall season as the lake is a popular stop spot.
Location : Cook County, Illinois, U.S.
Area : 60 acres
Max depth : 21 feet
Shoreline : 8,000 feet
Fish : Yellow Bullhead, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Bass
Activities : Camping, Boating, Fishing, Horseback riding, Biking, Hiking, Picnic, Snowshoeing, cross country skiing.
Pets : Allowed
Lake Lou Yaeger is a reservoir created by damming the Shoal Creek. It was built for flood control purposes and recreational activities & sport fishing. Unlike other lakes, Lake Lou Yaeger does not impose any speed or power limit - hence, it is a popular spot amongst boaters. The shore area of the lake features excursion territories, play areas, hiking trails, bike trails, campgrounds, and steed trails.
Location : Montgomery County, Illinois
Surface area : 2.031mi²
Maximum length : 8 miles
Maximum width : 0.5 miles
Fish : Bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie.
Activities : Hiking, Biking, Camping, Boating, Fishing
Lake Le Aqua Na was developed in 1958 to provide Illinois citizens with recreational opportunities near their living accommodations. The lake features 8.5 miles of marked trails, 1.4 miles of wooded shoreline, a launching ramp, a public beach, a fishing pier, and Camping grounds. It also employs watershed practices and an axial-flow destratifier to keep the oxygen levels high at all depth ensuring safe practices of aquatic activities.
Address : 854 North Lake Road Lena IL 61048
Beach Open Hours : 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM (from Memorial Day through Labor Day)
Activities : Hunting, Picnicking, Camping, Swimming, Fishing, Boating, Ice Fishing, Sledding, cross-country skiing, Hiking, Biking, horseback riding!
Pets : Allowed on leash
Axehead Lake was constructed in 1958 as a borrow pit for an expressway construction. The lake has clear water which ensures a good condition for fishing. It is also known as one of the “inland trout” lakes for the state of Illinois. The Lake is a must-visit for anglers.
Hours : Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset
Entrance : S River Road, south of W Touhy Ave Cook County, IL 60018
Size : 17 acres
Max depth : 29.9 feet
Activities to do : Fishing, Ice Fishing, Picnicking.
Fish to Catch : Bluegill, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass
Restrictions : Boats are not allowed
Amenities : Parking, Portable Bathroom, Picnic tables
Wolf Lake is located in between the Hegewisch community of Chicago and Hammond, Indiana. It is one of the most important bio-diversity spots in the Chicago region. It is regarded as a haven by those who enjoy fishing for a wide variety of aquatic life is found here. Visitors can also indulge in a wide range of engaging activities from Biking to boating and fishing at the William W. Powers State Recreation Area is located on the far southeast side of the Lake.
Location : Hegewisch, Chicago, Illinois; and Hammond, Indiana
Area : 1.256 mi²
Shore length : 24.77 miles
Maximum depth : 5.5 m ( Indiana) 5.6 m ( Illinois)
Common Fish : Crappie, Largemouth, bass, bluegill, yellow perch, northern pike, bluegill, sunfish, walleye, hybrid muskie.
Activities : Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Hunting, Metal detecting, Biking
Lake Potawatomi, well renowned for its scenic beauty is the perfect gateway destination from the rush of city life. It is surrounded by the Potawatomi woods - a protected habitat of woodland birds and plant species such as black ash and violet cress. Here, visitors can enjoy a day out picnicking or engage in activities such as Hiking and Jogging. The most popular feature of the site is a 21.9-mile Nature watch cycling trail.
Location : Wheeling, Cook County, Illinois
Best Time to Visit : Fall
Area : 4 acres
Maximum Depth : 9 feet
Fish : Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Muskie, Yellow Bullhead, Golden Shiner, Crappie, Catfish, and Largemouth Bass.
Pets : Dogs allowed (on-Leash only)
Activities to do : Fishing, Picnicking, Boating (Radio-controlled power boats permitted)
Lake Opeka is a man-made lake built-in 1963, located at Des Plaines, Illinois. Here you can experience activities such as riding a paddleboat, kayaking, picnicking, fishing, and sailing. The lake is enclosed by the Lake Park that features jogging paths, exercise stations, a volleyball sandpit, picnic tables, and grills for people to enjoy. Various Classes and programs are also offered here, such as year-round sailing lessons for all ages, sailing camps for children aged 8-14, and swimming lessons.
Location : 1015 Howard Ave, Des Plaines, IL 60018
Area : 40 acres
Fish : Bluegill/ Sunfish, Common Carp, Rainbow Trout, Bullhead Catfish, Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass, Black/White Crappie, Northern Pike, and sometimes Turtles.
Fishing Hours : 6:00 am till Dusk.
Activities to do : Fishing, Sailing, Boating, Picnicking.
Boating season : April 1 to October 31
Boat rental : Paddleboat: USD 12/30 minutes, USD 20/hour.
Kayak: USD 13/30 min., USD 19/Hour
Residents receive a USD 2 discount on rentals.
Tampier Lake is located in Cook County Southwest to Chicago Suburbs. It was formed when a dam was constructed in a creek nearby. The lake has 3 access points: Tampier Lake Boating Center, Tampier Lake - North, and Tampier Lake - West. Visitors can bring their family to enjoy a day out filled with activities such as fishing, kayaking. Other amenities include a restaurant on-site and a bait shop. Visitors can also bring their kayak or electric boats (Motorboat not allowed).
Location : Palos Township, IL 60467
Area : 131 acre
Maximum Depth : 9.4 feet
Shoreline : 3 miles
Fish : Bluegill, Walleye, Northern Pike, Channel Catfish, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Black, yellow and Brown Bullhead, Green Sunfish, etc.
Activities to do : Boating, Kayaking, Fishing, Picnicking, and Camping.
Boat rental : Available Early April to Late October (6 AM to 7:30 PM)
Pets : Dogs allowed (at owner’s risk).
Regulation : Boaters must be older than 18 years of age with valid ID. No more than 3 adults per boat. Children Below 3 are not allowed on boats.
Restrictions : Swimming, Alcohol, and Glass Bottles.
Bangs Lake located in Lake County, Wauconda, Illinois is a glacial lake. It features a shore length of 6.3 miles and offers diverse recreational activities with fishing as the most popular activity. The lake’s natural element is well maintained by the locals and the authorities who work together by organizing various drives and events throughout the year. It is one of the most visited destinations for families looking for a fun and relaxing day.
Location : Wauconda, IL, US 60084
Area : 306.1 acres
Lake volume : 3,323.6 acre-feet
Maximum Depth : 32 ft (9.8 m)
Fish : Bluegill, Walleye, Carp, Black Crappie, Channel Catfish, White Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Bass, Northern Pike, Yellow Bullhead and Yellow Perch.
Events : Bangs Lake Multisport Festival (Olympic Triathlon, Duathlon, and Aquabike), Walk on Water Charity Ice Fishing Derby
Activities to do : Swimming, Boating, Skiing, ice skating, and Fishing.
If there is anything we missed out on, do mention it in the comments below.