What to Do at Moraine View State Recreation Area: A Short Drive from Champaign-Urbana
We’re on a mission to find any space nearby where we can get some sort of a water fix… which leads us to Moraine View State Recreation Area in LeRoy, Illinois, just 35-40 minutes away from Champaign-Urbana.
If we had to rate Dawson Lake (the body of water at Moraine View) in size, it would certainly rank larger than Lake of the Woods or Homer Lake, but smaller than Clinton Lake, one of the more well known lakes near Champaign-Urbana; or Lake Shelbyville, which is a bit further away.
The big draw here is the water, but we’ll be sure to cover everything you want to know before you drive out to LeRoy. And we’ll cover what sets this water spot apart from the other ones mentioned above.
Must Know Info: Dawson Lake at Moraine View State Recreation Area is a draw for sailboats and motorcraft of 10HP or less. There is a two-lane launching ramp and docking facility and boats are available for rental here.
The first thing we think stands out about Moraine View State Park is the prevalence of more casual, small watercraft, such as kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and paddle boards. This is a popular place to take on such activities, and their concession area is well stocked with boats available for rental if you don’t have your own. Also, spread the word that there is an accessible kayak launch here!
Must Know Info: Illinois state fishing rules apply (so have your fishing license). Dawson Lake is regularly stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, bullhead, crappie, channel catfish, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike.
Fishing is one of our favorite activities outdoors in Central Illinois. (Get our whole guide to fishing right here.) Fishing at Moraine View State Recreation Area was easy enough for our family, as the docks were recommended to us by concession area staff. Of course, if you’re out on a boat, you can drop your line in the water. We didn’t see any of the large fish that were reputed to be swimming in the lake but did catch a few small ones.
Must Know Info: Open during the season from Memorial Day through Labor Day: Fri-Sun and holidays only. $3 per person. We recommend you bring cash.
It’s important to note that this beach has no lifeguards and it is a very small beach, often populated with geese. Don’t think of expansive sandy beaches here — it’s a place for a good ol’ fashioned dip in lake water if you’re wanting to do that in a safe area.
It’s also worth mentioning that during our visit the beach was closed, so you may want to call ahead to confirm it’s open if you’re heading out here for a visit to the “beach” mainly. (Pictured below, the sandy area of the “beach” that you can enter the water from. You can also see the buoys that bound the swimming area.)
Must Know Info: There are 137 Class A trailer campsites at Moraine View State Recreation Area. There is also the Gander Bay Campground area, which can be rented out and has 102 sites and a boat launch area of its own, too.
The campground was nice and quiet while we were out there on a summer day. There were many campers in the area we toured. Book a campsite at Moraine View right here.
Take a Hike or Go for a Swing
Must Know Info: Moraine View was made for exploration! We love the trails there, and how they weave around with the lake in close proximity much of the time. It provides a great backdrop to your swinging/picnicking/hiking visit. There’s no admission fee just to come out and play at Moraine View so you can drive out to explore what is available for YOUR family there and enjoy the scenery in the process.
There are many hiking paths that are very kid friendly and playgrounds just along the lake. We really liked how some of the trails were marked as handicapped accessible, as we know that strollers would navigate those paths along with anyone who has mobility special needs or challenges.
Grab a Bite, Rent a Boat or Cool Off at Moraine View Restaurant & Kayak Rental
Must Know Info: The concession area is open daily. If you’re visiting outside of Memorial Day to Labor Day, we recommend calling them at 866-724-6398 to confirm they are open first. Hours vary daily and seasonally, so check out their website here. The restaurant was really nice and they took good care of us. Everything is in the same building, whether you’re renting a boat, ordering food or grabbing bait to go fishing with.
The food got two thumbs up from our kids. The grown-ups loved their huge spring rolls and the kids thought the milkshakes were amazing (their words). We could have just eaten tons of fries and been happy, too! Eat inside in the air conditioning or relax outside on their porch overlooking the beautiful lake and boat docks. They also serve beer and wine.
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