Illinois is more than big cities and camping in Illinois is more than wild and wonderful than most people think. Believe it or not, Illinois has 70 State Parks, 11 State Recreation Areas, six State Forests, two State Memorials, a State Nature Preserve, four State Natural Areas, 17 State Wildlife Areas, one State Wildlife Management Area, a National Forest, two National Historic Sites and three National Wildlife Refuges. There is plenty to do outside of Chicago and around the state. And, believe it or not, Illinois is home to some pretty bizarre and weird things, including Bigfoot sightings, giants, pyramids, and UFOs. If you prefer plain old camping to conspiracy, there’s still plenty to do in Illinois.
Archway RV Park
Mt. Vernon IL 62864
Phone: (618) 244-0399
Open year-round, Archway RV Park is easy to get to from the Interstate. Level, full-hookup pull through sites that are big-rig friendly. They love pets so much they even have a dog run with exercise field for dogs. You’ll love that they also sell propane. The fish pond is catch and release only, and there’s no swimming, but there are other amenities that offset that lack, such as:
- Pull-through and back-in sites
- Meeting Room
- Showers with handicap access
- A Playground
- Ice house machine
- Close to Walmart Supercenter
- Dump Station
- Cabins and glamping pods
- Pavilion with fire pit
- Pilot gas station nearby
- Propane station
- Outdoor RV Storage
- Picnic tables available
Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area (Camping)
Shawnee National Forest Headquarters
50 Hwy 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946
Phone: (618) 253-7114
Bell Smith Springs is one of the most beautiful recreation areas the Shawnee National Forest has to offer. It contains a series of clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and an abundance of vegetation unique to Illinois. The trail system consists of eight miles of interconnected trails featuring strange and wonderful rock formations, such as Devil’s Backbone, Boulder Falls and a natural rock bridge. Hiking this system of trails is a favorite activity because of the rock features, scenic overlooks, hidden springs and lush flora and fauna.
Carlyle Lake Campground Dam Recreation
801 Lake Road
Carlyle, IL 62231
Phone: (618) 594-4410
Carlyle Lake Campground is owned by the Army Corp of Engineers. According to the Guide to Carlyle Lake, the campground sits on the largest man-made lake in the state of Illinois which boasts over 26,000 acres of water. The campground has both a day use area and a campground, including 109 reservable campsites. It provides modern amenities and access to a marina and boat storage facility. The adjacent Dam West Spillway and Day Use Areas offer additional recreational opportunities. Visitors can also walk or bike across the dam to the Dam East facilities and McNair Group Area. Boat ramps and courtesy docks are provided, and the vast lake allows for plenty of water sports. Fishing is a popular pastime, and white bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, freshwater drum, carp, flathead catfish and walleye can be found in abundance.
There is an on-site playground and plenty of open space for children to play in, as well as an amphitheater for educational programs. A multi-use biking and walking trail is located a short drive away at the dam.
Fish Lake Beach Camping Resort
32223 N. US Highway 12
Volo, IL 60073
Phone: (847) 546-2228
What’s the most popular thing to do at a campground called “Fish Lake Beach”? Why fish of course. Fish Lake is ideal for non-motorized boats, fishing and swimming. Our sandy beach has swings, a picnic area, playgrounds and grills. Fish for bluegill, crappie, bass, northern pike, bass, carp and more. If you don’t want to fish, there’s still plenty to do. Other activities include themed dances, adult night with live entertainment, kids’ crafts, teen and adult volleyball, Saturday hayrides and more.
Their heated pool, kiddie pool, hot tub, beach, lake swimming, boat rentals and fishing are just a few of the amenities they offer. Camp with conveniences like laundry facilities, restrooms, hot showers, WiFi, fishing piers, off-leash dog park and Concessions. All campsites have water and electric hook-ups along with a picnic table and fire ring. They even sell firewood and s’mores kits. Admission to the beach, pool, amenities and activities are included with camping. All sites feature a water hook up, a fire ring, a picnic table and electric hook up. Select sites have a sewer hook up. They also have park models on site that rent for 2-14 nights, ideal for anyone that wants to camp with all of the comforts of home.
Fish Lake Beach is also the Preferred Lodging Partner of Six Flags Great America. They sell their daily passes for $51 and seasonal passes for $83. Six Flags Great America! Fish Lake Beach is a 20-25 minutes ride to Six Flags Great America.
Robin Hood Woods Campground
2151 State Highway 16,
Phone: (217) 774-4222
Robin Hood Woods is one of the cleanest campgrounds in the state, a major accomplishment considering they have 250 campsites. There are drive-through sites for extra-large RVs and 5th-wheels, and permanent seasonal campsites. They also have campsites for tents and back-ins. If you are towing a boat, car or utility trailer, they offer safe parking and storage. Whether you are looking for seasonal, a week, weekend or just need a place to stop for the night, all are welcome.
The campground offers catch and release fishing in their 2 ½ acre pond, which is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish. If you are looking for serious fishing—which includes a freshly caught fish dinner, Lake Shelbyville is just down the road.
Robin Hood Cabins & Cottages:
All of their Log Cabins, Cedar Cabins and Family Cottages are also clean, cozy and comfortable, and fully equipped with everything you need for housekeeping. They have multiple styles and sizes of cabins and cottages to meet your needs. Also available are a 2-bedroom waterfront log cabins, one-bedroom waterfront log cabins and single-room open-concept log cabins, which sleep six people each. They also offer one-and-a-half lakefront cedar cabins, which sleep six people. Their family cottages are ideal for small families and sleep four comfortably.
4201 Shabbona Grove Road
Shabbona, IL 60550
Phone: (815) 824-2106
Shabbona Lake State Park is situated on 1,550 acres in Shabbona Township, DeKalb County, Illinois, United States. The lake is man-made, and was created in 1975 by damming the Indian Creek, a tributary of the Fox River. Shabbona Lake State Park Campground is a semi-wooded area with 150 Class A sites with electricity, showers, vehicular access, boat launch, playground, a kid’s fishing area, and The Camp Store. The campground even has “loaner” fishing poles if you don’t have your own. They also have paddle boats that you may rent to enjoy a scenic view of Shabbona Lake. The lake is more than just a scenic vista. It’s home to record setting fish – including four State records for Muskie.
Each campsite has a gravel parking space, picnic table, and a campfire ring. Campfires are only allowed inside the fire ring, and you must either purchase firewood at The Camp Store or you may bring in wood as long as it has been certified by the Illinois Department of Agriculture as having been inspected and found pest free. All vehicles must park on the gravel pads, and all tents must be erected on or within 15 feet of the gravel pad.
St. Peters’ 370 Lakeside Park
Leave your worries behind and enjoy the outdoors at St. Peters’ 370 Lakeside Park. Located on a 140-acre lake just off Hwy 370 at Truman/Cave Springs Road, you’ll find quiet seclusion only minutes from shopping and restaurants. The best of both worlds. There are 75 full-service RV and tent campsites are available, including 6 paved, ADA-approved sites and 69 gravel sites.
RV Sites: rotomill (gravel) is 15′ wide with a minimum of 15′ of grass area next to the rotomill. Pull through drives are 65’ long and there are pull-throughs (35′ X 71′ minimum) and back-in (35′ X 61′ minimum) pads with up to 50 amp service. All sites have picnic tables on concrete pads, and fire rings, and the roads are paved. There’s a Corporate Pavilion available for groups. Enjoy clean comfort stations with restrooms, showers and laundry. Primitive tent sites available and pets welcome, but must be leashed. Don’t worry about your dog having to stay tethered. There’s also St. Peters Rotary Dog Park. http://www.stpetersmo.net/st-peters-rotary-dog-park.aspx
Other amenities include:
- Archery Range.
- Convenience store at RV check-in station.
- Stay six consecutive nights on a full hook-up site and the seventh night is FREE!
- Free Wi-Fi.
- Patrolled by community service officers and park rangers year round.
- 5-mile pedestrian/bike trail around lake.
- Sand Volleyball. Play area. Marina.
- Fishing and boating at the lake.* Learn more about 370 Lakeside Park.
- RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bicycles and watercraft such as kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and jon boats.
- Guests of the RV Park receive St. Peters resident rates at the Peters Rec-Plex recreation center with indoor pool, cardio/weight room and ice skating as well as resident rates at St. Peters Golf Course.
569 North 1800 East Road
Goodwine, Il 60939
Phone: (815) 457-2936
Timbered Meadows is privately owned. As of 2009, campsites go for $20 per night, according to Triple Blaze. This camp ground is far from highways and full of peace. Fishing is abundant at the three lakes located about the campsite.
Thomson, IL 61285
Phone: (815) 259-3628
Because it’s located on an island in the Mississippi, the Thomson Causeway is not your typical campground. Recent renovations to the campground enhanced both the amenities and the campsites here. According to the Federal Recreation Website, the area is a popular nesting place, making it a great destination spot for birders and wildlife watchers.
Whittington Woods Campground
14297 State Highway 37
Whittington, Illinois 62897
Phone: (618) 435-3401
Whittington Woods Campground is family camping at its best. The campground has a great store fully stocked with ice, groceries, firewood, RV supplies, and of course, ice cream. There’s a newly renovated swimming pool with three large concrete steps for easy access when entering or leaving the pool, and a large pavilion for family gatherings, group gatherings or rallies. The pavilion has several picnic tables and a fire pit to make group gatherings easy and fun.
The main restrooms have central heating and air conditioning and have been totally renovated. There’s a wooded area where you can walk with the children and or pets as well as a playground located close to the pool. They also have a basketball court, propane, dump station and a laundry room with brand new machines. Free Wi-Fi internet access is available throughout the park. Campsites include 30 and 50 amp service, and are big rig and pet friendly.
Illinois Beach State Park
Lake Front – Park Office
Zion, IL 60099
Illinois Beach State Park stretches 6.5 miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois. Illinois Beach is the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state, with dunes and swales, sprawling marshes, forests of oak and vast arrays of animal life and vegetation. The sandy ridges are crowned by black oak forests with an open, savanna-like appearance. Several kinds of fragrant pines, introduced a century ago, also prosper in the southern area. Just north of the pines is the Dead River, a stream blocked by sandbars much of the year, but still home to an amazing collection of wild and aquatic life.
The 4,160-acre park, consisting of two separate areas (North Unit and South Unit). There are dozens of opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and simply appreciating nature throughout the park. In addition to swimming beaches, trails and campgrounds, the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center is the perfect place to get away for a weekend or a week long vacation.
The campground in the Southern Unit at Illinois Beach (Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Campground) provides 241 Class-A Premium sites with electricity and access to showers and sanitary facilities. You must obtain a camping permit from the park staff, and must have a camping unit upon arrival. Three handicap accessible campsites are located near the accessible restrooms and the campground dump station.
Reservations can be made online at www.reserveamerica.com and will only be accepted from May 1 – September 30. Due to the high use of this area on holiday weekends, reservations are recommended. Campsites also are available on a first-come first-serve basis, but understand that the campgrounds fill up early on Fridays during the summer season.
North Sandusky Campground
8420 Loon Lane
Sesser, IL 62884
Phone: (618) 625-6115
North Sandusky Campground is situated around Sandusky Cove on Rend Lake in the heart of Southern Illinois. The campground includes 19,000 acres of water as well as a plentiful 20,000 acres of public lands. The campsite is excellent for outdoor adventures. There are plenty of bike and hiking trails. With sweeping views of the water available from most campsites, North Sandusky provides an ideal location for scenic recreation on Rend Lake, which is made up of 18,900 acres of water and 20,000 acres of land. Wildlife in the area includes white tailed deer, wild turkey, fox, raccoon, opossum, waterfowl, and others as seasons change throughout the year.
Oak Point Campground
50 Hwy. 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946
Phone: (618) 658-2111
Oak Point Campground has 34 sites with both electricity and water at each site as well as an additional 25 primitive sites. A dump-station is located across from the Camp Host site. Located in Harrisburg, Illinois, Oak Point offers multiple hiking trails around the scenic lake, as well as a trail to Signal Bluff, a rocky ridge with scenic views.
Starved Rock State Park Campground
2668 East 875th Rd
Oglesby, IL 61348
Phone: (800) 868-ROCK
Starved Rock State Park campground is located close to the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. With more than 130 campsites with full hookups it’s rare, outside of national holidays, to find it hard to reserve a site here. Some of the more popular activities at the campground and surrounding areas include horseback riding, fishing and boating along the Illinois River.
Tower Rock Campground
Shawnee National Forest
50 Hwy. 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946
Phone: (618) 253-7114
Located along the banks of the Ohio River, Tower Rock Campground offers beautiful scenery and close proximity to water activities like fishing and boating. The 1/4 mile trail can be accessed near the boat launch. Be aware this area is prone to flooding when river levels fluctuate. Tower Rock, for which the campground is named for, sits 60 feet above the Ohio River. Hikers who make the climb will enjoy an amazing view. Tower Rock Campground offers paved roads and easy RV access.
Turkey Bayou Campground
2221 Walnut St.
Murphysboro, IL 62966
Phone: (618) 687-1731
Turkey Bayou is a no-fee campground located in Murphysboro, Illinois. The campground offers a magnificent view of Swallow Rock, and campers can set up camp right at the water’s edge. Campers can enjoy whitewater paddling and fishing, as well as take advantage of nearby outdoor entertainment such as Chalk Bluff or possibly visit the Trail of Tears State Park. Anglers will find a lot of success with bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill during fishing on Kincaid Lake. Nature lovers will admire the abundant wildlife surrounding the lake. In addition, there are more than 15 miles of hiking trails around the campground. This is a primitive site. It’s essentially a gravel loop that links up to several camp spots. It’s very open with minimal to no trees between the sites. There are only fire rings and picnic tables here, no toilets, showers, or other amenities.
227 Weird Things to Do While Camping in Illinois
Illinois isn’t the sort of state you think of when contemplating the unusual, bizarre, or outright weird. But if you’re camping there, it’s worth taking a look at the 227 weird things the state is known for, including UFOs, giants, pyramids, and the International Museum of Surgical Science, among others.
If you think you have to go to Roswell, New Mexico to camp out under the stars, or chase UFOs and hope for an encounter with aliens, think again. A decade ago, the Pentagon quietly set up a $22 million program – the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to investigate reports of unidentified flying objects, UFOs. Illinois is one of the state’s that caught the program’s attention—primarily because of a 2006 incident at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, but because of the sheer number of reports of UFO sightings in the state over the years.
The size and scale of the Cahokia Mound Complex has been compared in scope and grandeur to the Great
Pyramid of Egypt. The site is located at a major confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers, directly across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. Its height is composed of 120 major mounds (of which 80 remain today) and a city once estimated at 40-50,000 people, making it the largest city in the United States until Philadelphia overtook it in the 18th Century.
Is the largest earthwork in the Cahokiamounds complex. It measures 100 feet tall, with an original base of 1,000 feet. These even measurements in feet have raised the eyebrows, and of course the interest of alternative historians. The even heights as well as the numerous astronomical alignments show great similarities to alignments at Stonehenge and Teotihuacan, and other significant ancient sites. During excavations south of Monk’s Mound, archaeologists even found a series of wooden post-holes that they called “an American Woodhenge,” which they likened to Stonehenge and Woodhenge in England. It’s worth a visit.
International Museum of Surgical Science
Operated by the International College of Surgeons, the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago reveals the intricate history of medicine through the ages.The museum has rotating exhibits focusing on medical issues of the past and present. Exhibits cover everything from practical subjects like plastic surgery and diabetes to more creative pieces that happen to be related to the medical sciences, such as sculptures made from bones and machine parts.
Though the museum’s mission is unchanged, they have embraced new methods. In 1990, the museum began curating exhibitions around historical themes and surgical disciplines. It’s an intriguing museum and worth spending an afternoon examining over some of the 7,000 objects – from acupuncture needles to X-ray machines – that are on display.