Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every week for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. Since it is National Boating and Fishing Week, let’s focus on some of the top lakes in the region! 

Fishing opportunities within the Shawnee National Forest are numerous. There are 11 lakes and 52 ponds and about a dozen of these ponds are actively managed. By actively managing these waterbodies the angler’s fishing experience is greatly improved. Active management includes: Erosion control to reduce sedimentation and improve water quality, control and removal of nuisance vegetation by water level manipulation and mechanical removal, maintain the stability of the dams through the removal of woody vegetation and submerging structures to provide habitat for fish and other aquatic life. These actions improve fish habitat and quality, but also improve access to the lake/pond and clear areas along the bank for fishing. Other improvements that have been made include creating parking areas, placing signs to identify pond locations and stocking with native species. Whether you are alone or with friends and family, one of the best places to take in the sights and sounds of the Shawnee National Forest is along the bank of a pond or lake. The size of the lakes and ponds varies greatly within the Shawnee National Forest.  All are open year-round for fishing and other water-based activities. Fish stocking is done on a rotational basis in 11 lakes and about 12 of the ponds. The Forest Service has also improved fish habitats with the use of submersible fish attractor structures. Most of the ponds were originally stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. Since bass and bluegill can typically self-sustain their populations, channel catfish are preferred for supplemental stocking. Access: Larger lakes such as Cedar Lake,  Kinkaid Lake, Lake Glendale and One Horse Gap Lake all accommodate truck and trailers. Many of the remaining lakes and even some ponds have small gravel parking lots with access by gravel roads.  Most of the small ponds have walk-in access only. Fishing Regulations:   The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) set the state fishing regulations.  While fishing in the Shawnee National Forest all anglers are required to follow IL. State Fishing Guidelines and to obtain a state fishing license if applicable.Boat Rental: Limited number of john boats are available for rental at Lake Glendale Recreation Area. Interested persons should contact Lake Glendale Concessionaire at (618) 638-8340. 

Carbondale Area

Whether you enjoy fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, or just laying out and soaking up the sun, the Carbondale area is home to some of the best lakes in Southern Illinois. Cedar Lake, considered by many the most beautiful lake of the area, spans 1,750 acres and has more than 30 miles of shoreline. Cedar Lake has a lot to offer: 170 acres of water; 14 miles of hiking and horseback trails; a public  sandy beach with lifeguards and all the amenities; and two boat access areas. Cedar Lake Beach opens Memorial Day weekend and then is open only on weekends until Labor Day. Perfect for swimming, paddle boating, canoeing, kayaking and motor boating, Cedar Lake is about 15 miles south of Carbondale. Cedar Lake imposes a 10-hp limit so fishermen can take advantage of the peaceful waters. Cedar Lake is managed for bass and crappie fishing, and fishermen often catch Channel catfish and bluegill as well. The Little Cedar Loop is a breathtaking 4.3 miles and leads to a rocky, cascading spillway. The lake is family and pet friendly. SIU Campus Lake, a 40-acre spring-fed lake in the heart of the campus has a newly renovated boathouse and offers a plethora of outdoor activities including canoe and paddle boat rentals. Take a stroll on the paved path going around the lake, picnic or even fish from one of many docks. Evergreen Park, also known as The Reservoir is a pleasant place to go fishing or boating without having to travel far at all. Located on W Pleasant Hill Road the park offers playgrounds, picnic tables and covered gazebos. It’s a quiet place to kayak or fish. There are several other popular lakes located within a 15-30 minute drive of Carbondale that offer many outdoor recreational opportunities to explore! Crab Orchard Lake is the largest of three lakes on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and is open to a multitude of different boating options, from large capacity motors to jet skiing to sailboats powered by Mother Nature. The 7,000- acre lake has a marina, eight boat ramps, a beach and two campgrounds. Kinkaid Lake is about 13 miles northwest of Carbondale and encompasses 2,750 acres, crossing through rolling hills and sandstone bluffs. The lake is perfect for fishing bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, walleye and muskie. Four boat ramps and a marina are located on site. Devil’s Kitchen Lake is a clear and deep lake located in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. The lake is open paddle boating, canoeing, kayaking and motorboats no more than 10 horsepower. Fishing is also permitted. Lake Murphysboro is 145 acres, with more than seven miles of shoreline of rolling hills, and a vast and varied population of trees. A large variety of fish live in the lake: largemouth bass, bluegill, red-ear sunfish, channel catfish and crappie. The lake also offers a fishing pier and boat rental. The boat horsepower limit is 10. Lake Murphysboro is located off of Route 149 about 11 miles northwest of Carbondale. Little Grassy Lake is located just seven miles south of Carbondale, Little Grassy Lake is 1,200 acres of lake and more than 36 miles of wooded shoreline. Up to 80 feet deep, Little Grassy Lake is part of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and has a boat launching ramp, a sandy beach and an abundance of largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie. Boats are limited to 10 horsepower. Canoes, kayaks, Jon boats and Pontoon boats can be rented on site. For more details on outdoor recreation in the Southern Illinois area, check out our Adventure Guide!


If you want to spend your summertime soaking up all the sun and enjoying life’s simpler pleasures, we invite you to stay in Southern Illinois! Williamson County is a great destination for all your outdoor summer fun. We have four large lakes that offer endless opportunities for a great time. The Lake of Egypt, just south of Marion, has several marinas, vacation rentals, boat rentals, bars and restaurants. You can ride jet skis, tube, water ski, swim, fish, or leisurely cruise in your boat while on these waters. This lake is great for family vacations, couples’ getaways, reunions, and much more! The Crab Orchard Lake, Devil’s Kitchen Lake, and Little Grassy Lake all reside within the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Crab Orchard Lake is a 7,000-acre lake that hosts fantastic boat fishing as well as bank fishing from several causeways. Little Grassy Lake is a 1,200-acre lake that also hosts wonderful fishing opportunities. Devil’s Kitchen Lake is a hotspot for fishing tournaments due to its year-round fishing opportunities. Each of these three lakes are great places to canoe or kayak. They are surrounded by lush forests that create a most beautiful and serene experience.


It’s safe to say that each of the 22-counties we represent has a great place to kayak, fish,jet-ski and more. We’ll touch on four different water based activities throughout our region that you should take advantage of this summer! The first is sailing, wait…what? That’s right, sailing. Carlyle Lake is not only the largest man-made lake in the state, but it’s also home to the Carlyle Sailing Association. On any given weekend you can see droves of sailboats out on the water enjoying the breeze. So if you’re a sailboat enthusiast, or just think they’re beautiful to watch – definitely give Carlyle Lake a visit. For a great kayaking or canoeing adventure, make sure to check out Pyramid State Recreation Area in Perry County. Located just south of Pinckneyville, Pyramid is the largest state recreation area in the state – accounting for 19,700 acres. There are over 20 different bodies of water on the property to take out the canoe or the kayak and explore! Some of the best fishing in ILLINOISouth can be found at Newton Lake, in Jasper County. Some of the biggest bass you’ll ever catch are at Newton Lake, which has played host to several professional anglers over the years. Thanks to a longer than normal length limit, and the fact that the lake is heated by a nearby power plant – the bass are huge, and always ready to bite! If kayaking, fishing, and tubing is more your speed – definitely pay a visit to East Fork Lake in Olney. East Fork covers 934 acres and is home to nearly half a dozen kinds of fish. If you visit during a weekend, there is no doubt that you’ll find boats pulling skiers and tubers of all ages. Not to mention, there are a lot of local folks who love to take out their kayaks and enjoy the fall foliage at East Fork Lake when autumn comes around.

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