Updated May 26, 2020
With certain restrictions in place, all Illinois state parks will be open effective May 29
In Central Illinois, we can visit favorite destinations like Clinton Lake, Moraine View and Kickapoo State Recreation Area to kick off the 2020 season outdoors while practicing social distancing
COVID-19 has certainly disrupted a lot of the seasonal milestones we look forward to like Easter activities, spring festivals beginning and more. Thankfully, we still have an abundance of outdoorsy options to get us through this stay at home order and beginning May 1, the state of Illinois has released a revised stay-at-home order that permits for limited use of certain Illinois Department of Natural Resources properties (such as state parks).
In Champaign County, we’ve been beyond fortunate that our beloved Champaign County Forest Preserve District properties like Lake of the Woods, Homer Lake, River Bend, Sangamon River and Middle Fork have remained open for limited outdoor activities. With the May 29 opening of some of our favorite outdoor areas within a short drive, the opportunities to get outside and be active, while practicing social distancing with your family, are numerous.
According to updates from the Illinois Department of National Resources: effective May 29, all state parks, fish and wildlife areas and recreational areas, as well as select historic sites, will be open to the public. Camping and concessions will reopen and normal park hours will resume. Shelters, playgrounds, beaches, and pools will remain closed. Historic sites which do not have outdoor acreage will remain closed until further notice.
You can book reservations now for campsites at many Illinois state parks, fish and wildlife areas and recreation areas for stays beginning Friday, May 29, 2020. For reservations, go online to www.reserveamerica.com. Find the current IDNR Camping Guidelines here. For additional information on the reopening of IDNR sites, be sure to check the IDNR website.
Here are a list of state recreation areas near Champaign-Urbana you can visit:
- Clinton Lake State Recreation Area
- Kickapoo State Park
- Moraine View
- Eagle Creek State Park
- Wolf Creek State Park
- Fox Ridge State Park
- Walnut Point State Park
- Weldon Springs State Park
In addition, there are a number of other properties opening throughout Illinois. They just happen to be a bit further from Champaign-Urbana.
Editor’s Note: As always, we encourage you to plan carefully for any outings during these unprecedented times to determine what a safe distance is for you and your family to venture for an excursion.
So what can you do now while visiting one of these properties? Families of all ages and abilities, as well as all interest levels when it comes to nature-fun, will be able to find something to do. Some common themes among these properties while limited use is in place:
- limited restrooms are open and being cleaned frequently
- fishing, hiking, biking and adventuring are all encouraged while practicing social distance
- campgrounds are now going to OPEN, with campsites limited to groups of ten people
- most concessions (such as canoe rentals and restaurants) will be OPEN
- playgrounds, shelters, and beaches remain closed
- boating with up to ten people is allowed (up from an earlier limit of two people)
Planning a trip to a state park during COVID-19
We have a few simple tips for planning your outing.
- First, pack your own snacks and food in a cooler, bring water, and be ready to “pack out” your garbage to take it home with you. (There may be some receptacles around the parks but we know “packing out” is encouraged to limit the amount of clean-up employees have to upkeep.)
- Decide what you want to do ahead of time. Are you packing fishing gear? Just going for a walk? Check out the website for the property you’re visiting to best plan for your excursion.
- Bring your masks in case you find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to practice social distancing of six feet or more, such as when you need to interact with park staffers.
Perhaps this the first year your family is taking the time to stomp in creeks, climb over fallen logs and generally explore out in nature. Bring your camera! Maybe one of your kids will catch their first fish of the season while you’re out there. These are the memories we are creating as families during this crisis and let’s choose to remember the happy moments you are together in nature as we march into summer.