Description - *This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*
People interested in water sports, horseback riding, picnicking or hiking will find that Wayne Fitzgerrell has plenty to offer. The site also provides ample opportunities for birders, wildlife observers and photographers, fishing tournaments, pleasure boaters, water skiers and anglers.
Overlooking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 19,000-acre Rend Lake Reservoir, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area is a gateway to Southern Illinois’ biggest outdoor playground - a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and interests. The park offers outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking and other outdoor recreational pursuits.
You’d be hard pressed to find a recreational complex with more activities than Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area.
Dedicated in 1975, just five years after the Rend Lake reservoir was constructed, the park encompasses 3,300 acres of former farmland leased to the Department of Natural Resources by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The site is named in honor of the late Wayne Fitzgerrell, a state representative from nearby Sesser who was an advocate for the construction of Rend Lake.
Approximately 2,000 acres of the site are developed for picnicking, boating access, camping and other activities, while another 1,000 acres have been set aside for hunting, field trials, wildlife observation, hiking and other land uses.
The area contains many fence rows, abandoned crop fields and cleared farmsteads interspered with small oak-hickory woodlands. Three quarters of the site’s perimeter is Rend Lake shoreline. This varied topography provides excellent habitat for a variety of upland and woodland wildlife, as well as waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors.
Birders visiting the area have an excellent chance of seeing great blue heron, American bald eagle, red-tailed hawk and a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. The resident population of ring-necked pheasants that Wayne Fitzgerrell supports is unique in southern Illinois. White-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum and squirrel are among the mammals wildlife enthusiasts are likely to see.
The beautiful waterside resort on Rend Lake offers first-class accommodations in one of southern Illinois’ finest recreation areas, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area. All 105 rooms and cabins have balconies or decks with lakefront views, full baths, TVs and telephones. Some rooms have fireplaces, sleeping lofts and spas, and some are wheelchair accessible. Although cabins do not have cooking facilities, they are equipped with refrigerators.
Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, Windows Restaurant at Rend Lake features a lounge and casual outdoor deck dining. House specialities include pork chops, catfish and steak, plus excellent homemade salads and desserts. The restaurant also offers a kid’s menu.
Amenities include a conference center that will accommodate groups from 25 to 600, an outdoor swimming pool, a tennis court, playground, golfing packages, a convenience store and gift shop, gas for boats, courtesy boat docking and rental of pontoon boats and wave runners.
For more information on hunting, fishing and golfing packages or to make lodging reservations, call (618) 629-2211 or (800) 633-3341.
Wayne Fitzgerrell is noted for its extensive sporting dog field trial programs. The site annually hosts more than 25 field trialing events, in which some of the best trained beagles, retrievers and bird dogs compete for regional and national honors. Many of the competitions are equestrian trials, with dog handlers and observers following the action from horseback.
For horseback riders, a 9-mile bridle trail encircles the wildlife/field trial area, and opportunities to see and photograph wildlife abound. The trail is open to all equestrians for most of the year. From Sept. 15 to April 15, the bridle trail is closed during the hunting and designated field trial seasons.
Recreation - Fishing-
Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area, with its excellent camping, lodging and boat launch facilities,is a great headquarters for anglers using Rend Lake. Since 75 percent of the park’s boundary is Rend Lake shoreline, the site provides outstanding bank fishing opportunities.
Rend Lake is well-known as an outstanding sport fishery for white and black crappie, particularly in the early spring, as well as excellent fishing for largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill. As a result of a Department of Natural Resources stocking program, the lake is one of the few southern Illinois locations to have a noteworthy white bass fishery. Current state records for bowfin and black crappie were creeled from Rend Lake.
Hundreds of upland game hunters flock to Wayne Fitzgerrell each fall to participate in a controlled pheasant hunt accommodating up to 120 hunters a day.
When game populations warrant, the site hosts hunting programs for upland game and deer. While no waterfowl hunting takes place at Wayne Fitzgerrell, the site is a popular location where waterfowlers can camp or rent a room for their hunting trip.
With more than 150 picnicking sites situated throughout the park, Wayne Fitzgerrell visitors should have little problem finding the perfect spot for a summertime picnic. There are three major picnic areas and several small areas equipped with shelters, tables, fireplaces and playground equipment. Reservations are accepted at four of the five shelters. Shelter 1 in the south picnic area and Shelters 2 and 3 in the north area offer a protected cove for the convenience of boaters looking for a picnicking spot. Shelter 4, located in the County Line Picnic Area, is the largest shelter in the park. This shelter has a nice shaded setting, is handicapped accessible and has electricity and water with a large fireplace for cooking.
For hikers and bikers, a newly constructed 4-mile hiking/biking trail is in place which runs from the day use areas through the campgrounds to Rend Lake Resort, and then connects to the Rend Lake College Bike Trail.
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.
Located 6 miles north of Benton on Illinois Route 154, Wayne Fitzgerrell is a 1 1/2-hour drive from St. Louis via Interstate 64, or 5 hours from Chicago on Interstate 57.