Weldon Springs State Park is a nature escape located just past well-known Clinton Lake in the heart of Central Illinois
Great for a hike, fishing trip or a family reunion, we think Weldon Springs is one Illinois state park you should consider visiting with your kids
We’ve seen signs for Weldon Springs State Park — located less than an hour from Champaign-Urbana — on our trips to nearby Clinton Lake. (To confuse matters, Clinton Lake isn’t actually located in Clinton and Weldon Springs IS located in Clinton.) The terrain might be similar to what you find at Clinton Lake, but the offerings are different. Here’s what you’ll find on your family’s trip to Weldon Springs State Park.
We’re always delighted to find getaways “off the beaten path” that will be less crowded and will allow our families to become more in touch with nature during our visits.
Enter Weldon Springs State Park.
For our inaugural trek to Weldon Springs, we chose a beautiful fall day to go explore and take some fishing gear along. Fall trout season had just begun and we thought we’d give it a go along with our usual “out in nature” things to do on our trip.
Weldon Springs offers camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and even sledding in the winter, among other recreational activities. In fact, it’s the recreational activities that make this site such a draw for Central Illinois families. You can spend a whole day there and, thanks to the numerous shelter rentals (some even with fire pits nearby), it makes a great spot for a group gathering like a family reunion.
Take a hike
There are so many lovely trails to choose from at Weldon Springs. You can get on the longest trail, a 3.1-mile mowed trail, and meander all the way through the old farm area. Another shorter trail, the Schoolhouse Trail, takes you by an old schoolhouse.
We went on the Lakeside Trail, which takes you on a 2-mile loop around the lake (path on the left below). There are other paths that are paved and accessible that branch off from the Lakeside Trail. One of the things that makes Weldon Springs unique is that nearly every part of the park is available in some form or fashion to those with disabilities, according to the park brochure. Not every trail is accessible, but the picturesque views, amphitheaters and even some campsites are.
Find the map of Weldon Springs at the bottom of this page for reference when choosing a trail.
Go fishing (and other lakeside fun)
What brought us to Weldon Springs was its designation as an official spot for fall trout season. We didn’t catch any trout while we were there, but we saw a handful of fishermen and fisherwomen pulling fish out of the water. This is a 29-acre, spring-fed lake with an abundance of fishing platforms and docks — really nice ones!
The only area that was crowded this particular weekend day was the area near the concession (which was closed for the season, but is generally open Memorial Day to Labor Day) which is also considered an accessible fishing dock. The rest of the people were fairly spread out at Weldon Springs making for a quiet day of retreating into nature.
Boats are allowed and we couldn’t find any specific requirements. But kayaking is popular here (convenient launch over by the concession/harbor area) and small fishing boats were seen, too. Nothing too large or loud, that’s for sure — unlike the much more heavily trafficked Clinton, where motorized boats are everywhere.
What about the springs?
Well, as you may have guessed from the name, Weldon Springs does in fact have natural springs. They feed the lake and we’re sure they vary seasonally. In October, the springs were reduced to just a trickle but we can’t wait to return in the spring and see them flowing. There was a cute little bridge to cross the springs and they were just the right height for a kid to jump back and forth over them. It made for a fun time!
Other things to know
Many families trek to Weldon Springs to visit Veterans Point, a lakeside memorial that honors veterans. Made of 20 tons of granite, it’s quite the sight and a special place to visit for those that wish to honor the service of our veterans.
This is a popular place to go bird-watching and we saw an abundance of bluejays at Weldon Springs, which was a treat. You can also go cross country skiing or snowshoeing here on the 3-mile Whitetail Ski Trail. Just be careful for the drop-offs on the edges of the trails as you go!
Gather together outside
If you have a small group of people you want to gather together, Weldon Springs seems like a beautiful option… as long as you don’t mind a more outdoorsy experience (sans flushing toilets). You can reserve the meeting spots (like the amphitheater pictured below) the same way you reserve campsites, on reserveamerica.com. Some of the sites have firepits, some have supersized shelters, and some are just set up like the space below, great for a more organized gathering or even a wedding.
We know gathering outside is going to continue to be a thing for a while to come and Weldon Springs may be a good option depending on needs. It looks like rates are around $25 a day for a space like this. The website notes how many picnic tables or how large of a group you can fit in a space once you click on the details.
Weldon Springs makes a good destination for a secluded retreat into nature for Champaign-Urbana area families. Head out for the day, pack a picnic and enjoy the woods!
Editor’s Note: Our trip to Weldon Springs State Park was during the peak of fall colors. We’re certain that the beauty of this site carries through the seasons in different ways.
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