best boating lakes in illinois

8 Best Boating Lakes in Illinois: The Top Locations

The “Land of Lincoln” is just as good a state as any in the world to go for a wonderful boating trip with friends or family. A few of the best boating lakes in Illinois rival that of those found in Russia, Italy, and South America not just in terms of beauty and serenity but also in terms of depth and size.

If you are interested to know about the best boating lakes and destinations in Illinois to visit this year, then check out our handy list below!

Our Most Recommended Boating Lakes and Destinations in Illinois

1. Lake Michigan

lake michigan

Lake Michigan is known as one of the five great lakes (or Laurentian great lakes) found in North America.

Great lakes are a series of relatively sizeable lakes that are connected through smaller lakes and other bodies of water.

Due to how massive this lake is in size, this lake is shared by Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It is home to more than 20 state parks and consists of more than 10 islands or islets. This lake contains a variety of fish species, including but not limited to:

  • Lake trout
  • Yellow perch
  • Lake whitefish
  • Panfish
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Largemouth bass
  • Bowfin

Fishing activities that occur in this lake are casual/recreational, commercial, and sports fishing.

2. Lake Shelbyville

lake shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville is a reservoir (a lake that utilizes a dam) found in Shelby County, Illinois (and shared with Moultrie County, Illinois).

The estimated surface pool is 11,100 acres and its reported elevation is roughly 600 feet.

Managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, this lake and dam project is home to a handful of marinas, resorts, and campgrounds.

Although it may not be as voluminous as the prior entry, Lake Shelbyville one of the most visited lakes in the state of Illinois.

3. Rend Lake

rend lake illinois

Rend Lake is one of the most popular reservoirs from the state of Illinois and is shared by Franklin County and Jefferson County near Benton.

According to estimates, the lake spans 18,900 acres and has an elevation of 405 feet above sea level.

This lake was created and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the dam was built across the Big Muddy River.

As it is one of the largest lakes (in terms of volume) in Illinois, a lot of avid fishermen have flocked to this area to conduct fishing activities and events.

The fish species that are identified within this body of water are as follows:

  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Channel catfish
  • Flathead catfish
  • Blue catfish
  • Carp
  • White bass
  • Largemouth bass

4. Devil’s Kitchen Lake

devil's kitchen lake

The Devil’s Kitchen Lake is one of the smallest lakes in Illinois but is one of the more well-known lakes in the state for its suitable fishing spots and populated fish species.

According to measurements, the lake is 810 acres in size.

The lake is also intriguing to several visitors due to its notorious name. There are two alleged origins for the lake’s name.

The first purported origin was due to the fact that the lake had a large, black-colored rock ledge where most weary travelers set up camp and slept for the night, hence the association with the term “devil’s kitchen.”

The second and more intriguing origin was attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt who, during the Second World War, visited the facilities in the area of the lake and upon visiting a messy cookhouse, proclaimed the statement “this truly is the devil’s kitchen.”

5. Lake Lou Yaeger

lake lou yaeger

Known to several people within the region simply as Lake Lou, Lake Lou Yager is a regional attraction for all kinds of water-based activities, including the following:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Aquatic sports
  • Nature treks
  • Camping

The 1,400-acre area is replete with fishing gear, fishing supplies, amenities, practical facilities, and healthcare stations. Notable fish species found in this lake are as follows:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Channel catfish
  • White crappie
  • Bluegill

6. Carlyle Lake

carlyle lake

Carlyle Lake has the distinction of being the largest man-made lake in the state of Illinois to date, spanning approximately 25,000 acres.

As this lake is artificially created, commercial activities are of premium quality and the luxuries afforded by the area are top-notch, rivaling that of other man-made lakes across the world.

However, despite its premier services and offerings, Carlyle Lake embraces nature and simplicity by being in theme with the water-based lifestyle as seen in their cabins, golf courses, and hotels.

Fish species that have been identified and populated within this lake are the following:

  • White bass
  • Channel catfish
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth bass
  • Flathead catfish

7. Vandalia Lake

vandalia lake

The Vandalia Lake is known by many in the state of Illinois as a simple, hassle-free lake with a host of facilities, boat docks, camping areas, and a beach.

This 660-acre lake and its accompanying 12-mile shoreline are visited for the following activities:

  • Nature treks
  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Beach visits
  • Bathhouse and picnics
  • Fishing
  • Camping

Four large pavilions are strategically situated around the lake and there is also an abundance of needed fishing gear and resources for those who primarily look to engage in boating and fishing activities.

The two most notable fish species found in this lake are channel catfish and largemouth bass.

8. Lake of Egypt

lake of egypt

Lake of Egypt is a reservoir that is located, as the name suggests, in the Little Egypt region of the United States of America, which is the Southern portion of Illinois.

Surveyors of this lake report an estimated 2,300 acres in size with a 90-mile shoreline and average depth of 18 feet.

This lake, unlike some of the other lakes on this list, is privately owned.

With regard to tourism and recreation, there are three accredited marinas that serve this lake, namely:

  • Pyramid Acres Marina
  • Mack's Lake of Egypt Marina
  • The Resort of Egyptian Hills

This lake is great for boating and fishing. The following species have been identified in the lake:

  • Bluegill
  • Channel catfish
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Largemouth bass
  • White crappie
  • Yellow bullhead

Conclusion

When it comes to the best boating lakes in Illinois, the tourist-worthy and boat-worthy lakes can extend the list to a total of 20 (perhaps even 30) which just goes to show how much this state has to offer in terms of nature and aquatic wildlife. For those interested in visiting the state of Illinois for boating and fishing expeditions with friends or family without the hassle of doing lengthy, intensive research, definitely keep this list in mind.

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