Description - *This Information provided by Illinois Department of Natural Resources*
If you’re looking for the ideal place to drop your line and catch a record fish, look no farther than Clinton Lake State Recreation Area. Recreational opportunities abound at this 9,300-acre facility, just 3 miles east of Clinton in central Illinois. From picnicking, hiking and camping to swimming, water skiing and boating to hunting for upland game, people from all over the Midwest flock to Clinton Lake to enjoy the great outdoors.
If just relaxing and watching the animal life is your interest, Clinton Lake has various small mammals and nearly 40 species of birds, including osprey, which dive into the lake for fish. In the spring, it is the place to search for morels. In the fall, it is ablaze with a rainbow of color.
The park land actually belongs to AmerGen which operates a nuclear power plant in the area. The State of Illinois has operated the park since 1978 through a long-term lease with the utility company. The partnership demonstrates that the state government and private businesses can work together to provide outstanding recreation.
Prior to the arrival of settlers in the area, the land on which the park rests primarily was upland prairie and bottomland deciduous forest. Historians believe the area likely was the site of small villages and hunting camps of tribes of the Illini Confederacy. Kickapoo also likely were in the area until the 1820’s. The first permanent European-born settlers came to the area in the 1830’s. Many of them came from Kentucky and Tennessee and farmed the land. Most of the area had been used as pasture or cropland at the time construction of the 4,900-acre lake began in the 1970s.
There are 17 Class AA campsites, 286 Class A campsites and 5 Class B/S campsites at Clinton Lake with showers and almost all are adaptable to either tents, trailers or motor homes. Each site is equipped with a grill and picnic table. Reservations are accepted for a limited number of sites by mail only, phone-in reservations are not accepted. The wooded area along the lake provides the perfect setting to turn in after a long day of fun. A group camp area for adults or youth groups has room for 75. It provides a secluded wooded setting and has a large shelter with electricity, three RV pads with electrical hookups, toilets, tables, grills and water there are no shower facilities at the group camp area. Portions of the Class AA, A & Class B/S and the group camp are wheelchair accessible. Please reserve the group campground ahead of time by contacting the park office.
Located close to the swim beach or accessible by car, you will find Mascoutin Grill. This concession, with indoor and outdoor dining, serves sandwiches, beverages, snacks and its ever popular fish dinner. You can also purchase bait, camping supplies and ice. Mascoutin Grill is a seasonal operation open during warm weather.
Recreation - Fishing
The 4,900-acre lake is what draws people to the park. The fishing is outstanding. There are special piers at the Mascoutin Access Area, the Spillway Access Area and the Valley Mill Bank Fishing Area for the disabled. If you’re dropping your line here, chances are you’re fishing for crappie. Hook them with white, yellow, or chartreuse jigs and minnows, which seem to work the best.
Don’t tell anyone, because the locals like to keep it quiet, but Clinton Lake is one of the best lakes in the state for catfish. Most of them are taken from the banks, or in the upper arms of the lake.
Hybrid and pure striped bass fishing is very popular here with numerous fish more than 10 pounds taken every year. But a word of caution - the bass are tackle busters. Careful, or you might lose your pole to ‘em.
For good eating, it is hard to beat a walleye and Clinton Lake has plenty of them. The bridges are excellent places to catch them from the bank and boaters can hit the Old Creek channels or submerged flats. For some great spring action, the spillway area yields large numbers of both walleye and stripers, as well as crappie and catfish. Clinton Lake also provides good action for largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, and bluegill. Special size and creel limits are in effect for most species.
The upper arms of the lake are no wake areas and portions are restricted to electric trolling motors only. There are no horsepower limitations in the lake’s main basin, however. Sailboating is popular. When the wind gets up, the lake can be very rough. Small watercraft are urged to stick to the north fork arm of Salt Creek on rough days. There are six public boat ramps and one canoe launch. All IDNR ramps are now equipped with wheelchair accessible boat docks.
Swimming & Water Skiing
A beautiful, 1,000-foot white sand beach awaits swimmers and sunbathers looking to catch some rays or frolic in the warm waters of the lake. The beach is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. There is a changing facility with showers and restrooms. There are no lifeguards. Please remain in the buoyed areas and swim with caution. No pets, glass, or sharp objects are allowed on the beach. No alcohol is allowed in beach area.
Waterskiing here is a blast and is permitted from the Route 54 bridge to the Route 48 bridge. Beach fees are $1 per day per person. Swimming is also allowed in other areas of the lake but is not allowed within 100 yards of bridges, boat ramps, or boat docks.
If just getting out and about is your interest, try the park’s three hiking trails. The 5 mile Houseboat Cove Trail north of the beach follows the shoreline and comes back through the woods. It is easy to moderate in difficulty. The 9.3 mile North Fork Trail is more challenging. It runs through the steeply wooded banks of the lake, but provides unparalleled views of the lake and opportunities to view wildlife. There are no exits anywhere, so be prepared for 4.2 miles up and 5.1 miles back. There’s also a 40-acre restored prairie along the North Fork, but beautiful wildflowers can be seen along both trails. A ten mile equestrian/hiking/cross-county ski trail is located on the north side of the lake east of the Parnell Access Area. Horse trailer parking is at that location. The area is now equipped with a wheelchair ramp for mounting horses. All equestrian trails are closed to horses from Oct. 1 to the end of archery deer season.
Day use areas are located around the lake with tables, stoves, water, playground equipment and toilet facilities. They are all accessible to the disabled. Shelters are available at the Mascoutin, Weldon, Lane, West Side and Penninsula access area. Mascoutin, Weldon and Peninsula have electricity. Weldon also has an open, grassy area along the shoreline for softball or fishing. A nearby wooded picnic area provides shaded protection during those long, hot summer days. The West Side Penninsula and Mascoutin areas have great views of the lake. Shelters may be reserved for a fee by calling the park office.
For your convenience, the Clinton Lake Marina, located 1 mile north of Illinois Route 10, off road 1700 East has a bait and tackle shop as well as gas, food and sundries. Slip rental, and boat sales service are also available. Call (217) 736-2727 for more information.
More than 2,900 huntable acres are available at Clinton Lake. The most common species are rabbit, pheasant, squirrel and dove, although quail and woodcock also are hunted. Deer can be taken in season by archery only. Limited muzzle loading deer hunting and shotgun turkey hunting is also available. Waterfowl hunting is permitted on the main lake basin from anchored boat blinds only. Walk in waterfowl hunting is permitted from numbered posts located north of the IL Rt. 54 bridge and east of the bridge at the Parnell Boat Access Area. All hunters must obtain a free permit from the park office. Try the archery range, complete with a shooting tower, just east of the North Fork boat access area where you can take aim at life-size targets of deer and turkey. Some of the targets are now accessible to wheelchair bound archers. An area near the site office is being developed for wheelchair accessible waterfowl, forest and upland game hunters. Clinton Lake Hunter Fact Sheet | Handicapped | Hallsville Hunter Fact Sheet
When the temperature drops, don’t huddle inside. Come to Clinton Lake. Ice fishing, ice skating and snowmobiling are allowed on the lake when the ice is thick enough. The North Fork and the coves on Salt Creek are good for ice fishing and skating. In the warmer areas of the lake, folks still drop their lines from the bank all winter long. The hiking and equestrian trails double as cross-country ski trails in the winter and provide a great workout.
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.
I57, north or south bound: I57 to Champaign; exit onto I74 west to Farmer City (approximately 20 miles); exit onto Rt 54 west (left at stop sign at end of exit ramp). Take Rt 54 through Farmer City and proceed approximately 10 miles to DeWitt. Brown informational sign at DeWitt will read "Mascoutin State Recreation Area". Turn left at corner of Rt 54 and Co Hwy 14. Go through DeWitt and proceed approximately 1 mile, park is on the right side of road. Park office is first left after entering park.
I55, south bound: I55 to Bloomington; follow I55 around south side of Bloomington and take I74 east for 2 miles; exit I74 onto Rt 51 south. Take Rt 51 south to Clinton (approximately 20 miles); ignore all Clinton exits and stay on the 4-lane going around town to the 2nd stop light (Rt 54). Turn left and follow Rt 54 through Clinton; proceed approximately 10 miles to DeWitt. Brown informational sign at DeWitt will read "Mascoutin State Recreation Area". Turn right onto Hwy 14 and follow this through DeWitt; proceed approximately 1 mile, the park is on the right side of road. Park office is first left after entering park.