Perfect Camping for You in Illinois!
The Prairie State provides a spectacular backdrop for some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country. But do you know which campgrounds offer the most privacy? Which are the best for first-time campers? John Schirle has traversed the entire state and compiled the most up-to-date research to steer you to the perfect spot! The full-color, updated, user-friendly format lets you easily find 50 of the best campgrounds to fit your travel plans and meet your personal interestswith author selections based on location, topography, size, and overall appeal.
Detailed maps of each campground and key information such as fees, restrictions, dates of operation, and facilities help to narrow down your choices, and ratings for beauty, privacy, spaciousness, safety and security, and cleanliness ensure that you find your perfect car-camping adventure. So whether you seek a quiet campground near a fish-filled stream or a family campground with all the amenities, Best Tent Camping: Illinois is a keeper.
About the Author
John Schirle was raised in central Illinois and has been back in his home state since 1993. Since his college days he has loved getting away in the outdoors: camping, hiking, canoeing, and, more recently, caving. As a result he’s spent countless hours scouring the region for the ideal tent-camping getaways. He’s had a personal goal for some years of visiting every single state park in Illinois (which he hasn’t yet achieved, although he’s a lot closer now!). Over the years he’s been a Bible translator in central Africa, a college professor, camp program director, and is currently a children’s librarian in his hometown of Decatur, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
Lake Murphysboro State Park
I love camping at the water’s edge, whether it be by a lake, creek, or rolling river. I love it even more when a park like Lake Murphysboro has taken advantage of its miles of shoreline to set up two completely separate lakeside camping areas, one primarily for RVs, and one for tents. And we tent campers get the better dealour campground is smaller, quieter, and closer to the lake.
As you’re coming north off IL 149, turn right toward Lake Murphysboro. If you go straight into the park, you’ll come to the popular Big Oak Campground, with 54 electric campsites. Turn left instead, and continue north around the lake 0.5 miles to the two adjacent tent-camping areas (20 sites total). Each site has a table, ground grill, and lantern pole, and most are located on the lakeshoreperfectly situated for fishing, or just sitting and enjoying the view. The first five sites, called Water Lily Campground, are between the main park road and the lake. Site 4 is designated wheelchair accessible; there are vault toilets directly across the road. Though they’re attractive, the primary disadvantage of these sites is their proximity to the road. For that reason, I prefer the sites just around the corner, along the dead-end Shady Rest Campground road.
Shady Rest has 15 sites, half of them as close to the lake as you can get without a boat. Sites 1, 2, and 3 on the right as you enter are good3 has more space and shade. Sites 4 and 8 are small, but site 5, which is between them, is attractive. All the other sites are spacious, but my favorite is site 15, at the end of the road, which has more room to spread out beneath some tree cover.
Once you’ve selected a site, register with the campground host at the first site in Big Oak Campground, or settle in and park personnel will come by later. There are vault toilets at both campgrounds, but you’ll need to get water at the shower house on the other side of the lake.
The tent areas don’t fill up as often as the RV campground, but they’re still about half full on most good weekends. If you come on a holiday weekend and find it maxed out, the park will open a grassy overflow tent area on the northeast corner of the lakeit’s not as pretty, but they’ll always find you a spot.
The main park road makes a loop around the lake, a scenic drive with several turnoffs leading to wooded picnic areas on lakeside promontories. On the opposite side of the lake from the campgrounds you’ll find the boat launch and shower house, open to all campers from April 1 to mid-November. Lakeside are numerous places to bank fish, as well as a beautiful wooden wheelchair-accessible fishing pier by the docks. There’s no longer a concession, but at the park office you can rent johnboats for $10 per day, which includes lifejackets and oars. You can bring your own motor, electric, or gas, 10 horsepower or under.
Considerably more open water and recreational opportunities can be found down the road at nearby Kinkaid Lake. Head straight west out of Lake Murphysboro along Lake Access Road, which becomes Marina Road and curves right at 1.4 miles. Another 1.4 miles brings you to the Kinkaid Village Marina, where you’ll find a restaurant, boat rental, groceries, ice, fishing tackle, and bait, as well as a very busy RV campground. This area is hopping on most summer weekends, with hordes of boaters, fishermen, water-skiers, and house-boaters. However, the lake offers 2,750 surface acres, more than 90 miles of shoreline, and almost 9,300 acres of surrounding wilderness, so there are plenty of places to get away from the crowds by boat, foot, or mountain bike.
The lands south and west of Kinkaid Lake are part of the Shawnee National Forest and feature more than 30 miles of fairly rugged trails, with several trailheads and possible routes between them. One beautiful hike begins at the dam at the southern end of the lake and winds north along the lakeshore 3 miles to the Buttermilk Hill picnic area. When you reach the forest service road at the end of the point, turn right to go down to the picnic area and restrooms. (You’ll have to retrace your steps to the dam, since the picnic area is accessible by boat or foot only.) To get to the dam, go west on IL 149 to Spillway Road (just past the bridge). Turn right and head north 1.25 miles to the parking area in front of the gate. The trail begins 0.25 miles up the hill, at the west end of the dam.
For other hiking options around Kinkaid Lake, go to www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/shawnee/recreation/rogs and download the guides to Kinkaid Lake, Gum Ridge, Buttermilk
Hill, and Waterfall Trail. (Note that the section between Buttermilk Hill trailhead and the picnic area is temporarily closed.) As on all trails in the Shawnee Forest, be sure to carry water, a map, and a compass or GPS unit.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Best Illinois Campgrounds
About the Author
Appendixes and Index
Appendix A: Camping Equipment Checklist
Appendix B: Sources of Information