Description - *This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*
With fully developed facilities for picnicking, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, horseback riding and hunting, the 1,687-acre Moraine View State Recreation Area, with its 158-acre lake, is a beautiful, convenient and accessible locale for relaxation and recreation.
When the glaciers of the last Ice Age moved through central Illinois 15,000 years ago, they pushed massive amounts of rock and earth before them, leaving in their wake long and expansive ridges that ripple across the landscape. These irregular crests are called moraines, and on their gentle swells and their broad valleys are scattered groves of white oak, red oak, black walnut, maple, hickory, ash and elm.
One of the four largest of these moraines in Illinois -- the Bloomington Moraine -- stretches across the state from Elgin to the Illinois River at Peoria east to Saybrook. In the middle of this sprawling feature, Moraine View State Recreation Area -- just minutes east of Bloomington/Normal off I-74 -- provides an ideal opportunity to enjoy both the tranquil natural beauty of Midwestern woodland and refreshing outdoor activity.
When early Europeans first arrived in this area, they found the Kickapoo and Potawatomi Indian tribes peacefully sharing the countryside. Following the War of 1812, the tribes signed a treaty with the Europeans enabling them to continue to live on the land and take game until white settlers moved in. In 1830 there were 630 Kickapoo living in a village in "Old Town Timber" south of Ellsworth.
The scattered groves of timber along the streams provided these early settlers with shelter from the bitter winds of winter, building materials, fuel and shade. The wet, sometimes marshy, prairie lands, though tough and difficult to turn with their primitive implements, were gradually drained or cleared, and small farms sprang up everywhere, taking advantage of the rich fertile soils left by the glacial retreat.
By the middle of the 20th century, it became apparent that the heavily farmed countryside -- situated as it was in an area whose topography and terrain precluded many good lake sites -- would require artificial manipulation to provide and maintain a water-based recreation area for it's steadily increasing population.
In 1957, preliminary surveys were made, and in 1959 the State of Illinois purchased 760 acres in Dawson Township. Clearing contracts were awarded in 1960, and by July of 1962 construction had begun on a dam on the North Fork tributary of Salt Creek between U.S.150 and Illinois Route 9. The resulting lake, called Dawson Lake after the families of early settlers, was opened for fishing in 1963.
Originally known as the McLean County Conservation Area, additional acquisitions have expanded the area to its present 1,687 acres, and in 1975 it was designated as Moraine View State Recreation Area. Development of full recreational facilities has since made this one of the state's sterling examples of how economic and social necessity also can provide opportunities for conservation and recreation.
For longer stays, there are 137 Class A trailer campsites with water, electricity and a sanitary station. Sixty-one sites can now be reserved in Gander Bay campground. A boat launch and dock is also situated in this area. Alcohol is prohibited in all campgrounds. Reservations are accepted.
Catfish Bay camp area and Tall Timber backpack trail provide 32 primitive class D sites. Ol' Orchard group camp has two sites able to accommodate 125 people. Timber Ridge group camp has 3 sites. Timberline Ridge horse camp has 30 Class "A" campsites complete with water, electricity, and hitching racks.
A concession stand, located near the boat dock and launch, offers dock and boat rental, fishing tackle, bait, refreshments and various supplies. A restaurant, seating 60, serves breakfast and lunch daily. For information, call (309) 724-8295.
Recreation - Picnicking-
For the day visitor, there is ample parking throughout the area and eight picnic areas in shaded spots, with tables and fireplaces. In addition there are five picnic shelters, three available for reservations and two for first-come, first-serve use. There are four playground areas for the kids.
The lake is regularly stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, bullhead, crappie, channel catfish, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. Whether from the five miles of shoreline or off the handicapped-accessible fishing pier, the angling is always good.
Drifting and bobbing on the glittering expanse of Dawson Lake is one of the site's most popular activities, whether aboard a sailboat or in a motorcraft of 10 horsepower or less. Presently, an idle-speed/no-wake speed limit exists for boat motors over 10 horsepower. There is a two-lane launching ramp and docking facility and boat rentals are available at the concession stand.
The Black Locust picnic area includes a public, sandy beach where swimming is permitted from Memorial Day to Labor Day. No alcohol or pets are allowed on the beach, and swimmers are to remain in the buoyed area. There are no lifeguards. Enjoy yourself, but please be careful.
For invigorating exploration, Moraine View contains a variety of opportunities. The half-mile Tanglewood Self-Guiding Nature Trail winds around the lake finger in a wooded area and will take you within sight of a thriving beaver dam and lodge. Tall Timber Trail, a 1.5-mile backpack and hiking trail over moderate terrain, also provides sites for primitive camping along its course. The Timber Point Handicapped Trail is a half-mile long opportunity for the disabled visitor to enjoy the pleasures of the woods as well.
More than 10 miles of bridle paths on Timberline Ridge Trail wind through most of the area. There is an equestrian campground available and horses also are available at the stables for group trail rides.
When the season brings sufficient snow, 7 miles of trails are open for cross-country skiing, and the field trial trails accommodate the higher horsepower of snowmobiles. Ice fishing and ice skating are available when the ice is thick enough.
Thirteen hundred acres of this are open to public hunting in season. Moraine View is one of eight sites in Illinois which has nine weeks of controlled pheasant hunting. Please consult the park office for specific information concerning hunting and opening dates for various species.
Climate - Illinois experiences four distinct seasons with varying weather throughout the year. Winter can be very cold. The highest humidity of the year occurs during this season averaging 70 to 75 percent. Average low temperatures in January dip to 20 degrees F with highs near 35 degrees F. Spring temperatures are mild with humidity below 70 percent. Temperatures during this season average between 32 and 50 degrees F. Summer is usually hot and humid in this Midwest state. Low temperatures remain in the low sixties with high temperatures near 90 degrees F. The highest rainfall of the year occurs during the summer months. Fall is an excellent time to visit the state with low humidity and rainfall and moderate temperatures.
From I 74, Exit #149 at LeRoy. Follow signs into LeRoy. Turn left on US 150 to Casey General Store. Turn Right on LeRoy-Lexington blacktop (County Hwy. 21). North to sign (Moraine View State Park), next Right. Follow road into park, past main entrance to flagpole.