Description - *This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*
Picture yourself on the banks of a beautiful lake, surrounded by shady oaks and rolling hills. The presence of a graceful heron on the water, or deer or even a wild turkey in the nearby brush may be visible. A tug on the fishing line brings you back to the task at hand -- reeling in the first or your limit of largemouth bass, bluegill or crappie. As the sun comes up, take a swim at sandy Rocky Point Beach. The rest of the day offers many options, from hiking on the nature trails, to softball or volleyball at the Circle Drive Picnic Area to water skiing. Or, you may want to spend the night at the Oak Ridge Campground. All of this, and more, awaits visitors to Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area.
The Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area, located 15 miles northeast of Salem in Marion County, was originally only 20 acres with a two-acre pond being the only water available. Since that time in 1959, additions have been made which bring the total current park area to 3,103 acres. Of this total, 1,150 acres are forests of oak and hickory which surround a large lake. The lake was completed in 1963 and has 18 miles of shoreline. The area is named for natural scientist, Stephen Alfred Forbes, whose contributions in the field of biology, make him world renowned. His prolific scientific publications, over 400 titles, are still used extensively in the study of aquatic biology, ornithology, ichthyology, and ecology.
A recently modernized camping area, Oak Ridge Campground, is a great place to spend an overnight stay. There are 115 shaded campsites with electricity, water and a shower building available. Two sets of stairways and boat dock provide access to the lake for campers here. A 120-foot floating walkway connects the campground with the marina area as well.
If you have a group, A Rent-A-Camp site is available. The site has a two room cabin with bunkbeds. The site can be reserved by contacting the Park Office. For those preferring a more secluded spot with a scenic view of the lake, 10 walk-in sites are available. A separate Youth Group Camp is available at the Persimmon and Whippoorwill areas.
Equestrian Trails and Campground-
A 15-mile horse trail circles the lake, offering horse and rider a panorama of natural beauty.
Also available for the equestrian is a 21-site campground with electricity, located on mile east of Omega. The horse trail is open from May 1 to November 1.
Dining and Marina-
The new restaurant and marina opened on April 14th, 2001.
This new facility has inside seating for up 40 people in a triangular shaped dinning area overlooking the lake. Additional outdoor seating will be available on two different levels of patios. Other features include a "country store" which provides necessary items for campers along with souvenirs. A tackle and bait shop keeps the angler well stocked. The marina portion of the project includes 80 boat slips for seasonal dockage, a fuel dock, and boat rental. A 220 foot floating walkway connects the the campground with the marina, and provides handicapped fishing access.
Recreation - Picnicking-
Very popular with day visitors are the many shady, picnic areas. Choose from Lookout Point, Stage Coach Trail, Black Oak, Sassafras, White Oak, Whippoorwill or Circle Drive areas. Picnic tables, pit toilets, and park grills are available at all sites. Circle Drive Picnic Area provides a more open setting and has an area for softball, volleyball or other games requiring an open grass area. Playground equipment is also available here, and at Sassafras Picnic area as well. Rustic park shelters enhance the areas at Whippoorwill, Sassafras, Stage Coach Trail and, Circle Drive Picnic Areas. Several can be reserved in advance by contacting the site office.
The 585-acre lake provides ample opportunities to the sport fisherman. The lake has been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear, crappie, channel catfish, hybrid-striped bass, tiger muskie, and walleye sauger hybrid. Largemouth bass are stocked annually from brood ponds located in the park. This, combined with a 14-inch size limit, has created excellent bass fishery. Fishing is also available at Boston Pond, Marlow Pond, and Wilson Pond.
Boat ramps provide easy access to the main lake. There is no limit on horsepower, but various sections of the lake are marked by buoys for water skiing and "no wake" speeds. The concession offers fishing boats for rental. Bait, tackle, gas, snacks, and meals are also available. Slips are available to rent for pontoon boats and smaller craft on a daily and seasonal basis.
A beautiful 200-foot sand beach is located at Rocky Point where visitors can enjoy swimming or picnicking at the tables provided here. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in the Rocky Point Area. Swimming is prohibited at all other areas of the lake, and swimming from boats is also prohibited.
There are four established nature trails for hiking enthusiasts. The Oak Ridge Trail is a 2.5-mile loop trail located in the campground. For those preferring shorter walks, the Marlow Pond Trail is half-mile long, the Henneman Trail which guides the hiker to an early settlement cemetery is only a quarter-mile long, or take the Phillips Creek Trail -- a quarter mile with access to the lake.
Over 2,000 acres of land are available for the hunter. Dove hunters will find the specially planted sunflower fields to be very helpful in attracting these birds. The heavily wooded areas also provide very good squirrel hunting. Brushy draws and fence rows provide excellent habitat for upland game such as quail and rabbit. Turkey and deer (bow only) hunting is also available.
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.
The Stephen A. Forbes State Recreation Area is located 15 miles northeast of Salem in Marion County.