By Julia Kelly
My family has loved Kickapoo State Recreation Area for years. From summertime camping, horseback riding and hiking trails to fishing and boating Kickapoo’s 22 lakes and the Middle Fork River, the park offers plenty of outdoor fun. (And get this — it’s only 30 minutes from C-U!)
Even for those who are less “outdoorsy”, Kickapoo offers a lot. For good food and live music, head to Kickapoo Landing. Want to host a family cookout with great playgrounds and room to spread out and relax? Kickapoo has picnic shelters and pavilions available across the park. Even the campground offers electric sites, showers, playgrounds and a basketball court.
Interested? Here’s what you need to plan your visit:
Hiking and Trail Running: The 2,842 acre park is packed with trails. Try the riverview trail around Clear Pond (Park by Kickapoo Landing) for a kid-friendly hike with plenty of wildlife. Runners or older kids might be up for the 7.6-mile Out & Back running and hiking trail.
Mountain Biking: Our tween boys (and Dad) are wild about Kickapoo’s 12 miles of single track mountain bike trails. They’re rated from easy to very technical, passing through fields, woods and deep ravines. The trail entrance is just east of the park.
Fishing and Boating: The Middle Fork River and Kickapoo’s smaller lakes offer great fishing for kids and experienced fishermen hoping to catch large- and small-mouth bass, catfish, bluegill, sunfish and rainbow trout. (For learn-to-fish programs for kids, check with the Vermilion County Conservation District.) Electric motors are allowed on all lakes, and there are 12 boat launch ramps throughout the park. Boat and canoe rental are also available, with shuttle service along the river from Kickapoo Landing. My kids have learned to canoe there and had plenty of early morning fishing trips with their happily unshaven Dad. It has been the perfect place to learn to bait a hook (hint, you have to touch the worm). Ew.
Parties, Picnics & Entertainment: Kickapoo Landing offers canoe-, kayak- and tube-rental. They also sell bait, ice and firewood for campers. They have a restaurant and live outdoor music every Friday of the summer. Psst… cool date night alternative to dinner and a movie. Sunsets over a lake can be very romantic…
Kickapoo has six picnic areas with shelters, tables, outdoor stoves, drinking water and playground equipment. We’ve had class picnics and birthday parties with bonfires… definitely worth it, and you can invite everyone without having to fit them all in your family room.
Horseback Riding: Thunder Wolf Trail Rides, just east of the park, offers individual and group trail rides. My 7-year-old daughter is in love with this place. The horses are gentle, the scenery is lovely, and they even have bridle-led rides for younger children. Cowgirl boots may be in order…
Camping: There are two main campgrounds for tents and for trailer camping. Electrical is available for about half of the park’s 184 sites. Shower buildings are open from May through October to put the ‘fresh’ back in ‘outdoor fresh’. Reservations for the main campground can be made online; if you want to register in person, just make sure you have your camping equipment on hand to claim your site.
Ready to Get Away? From Chambana: Drive East on I-74 to Oakwood Exit (206). Turn north and drive 0.5 mile. Turn right on Glenburn Creek Road. After about 1.5 miles you will enter Kickapoo State Recreation Area. (Park Map) For even more information visit the park website.
Julia Kelly lives in Danville, Illinois, with her husband and three kids. She writes about her adventures in parenting, gardening, cooking and life on her blog, Midwest Moms.