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  Fox Ridge State Park  

East-Central Region

18175 State Park Road
Charleston, IL 61920


Baby fox in the bushes
Boating Hiking Hunting
Camping History Picnicking
Directions Horseback Riding Surrounding Area
Fishing Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

Fox Ridge State Park, a 2,064 acre park 8 miles south of Charleston in east-central Illinois, is known for its steep, thickly wooded ridges, broad, lush valleys and miles of rugged, scenic hiking trails.

In sharp contrast to the flat prairieland of most of this section of Illinois, the Coles County park is set amidst rolling hills along the forested bluffs of the Embarras ("Ambraw") River.

Fox Ridge State Park is a great place to visit at any time of year. In winter, the snow-softened ridges are alive with birds and animals. In the spring, a panoramic blanket of multi-hued wildflowers and flowering trees celebrate the resurgence of growth. By summer the dense vegetation and new generation of wildlife are thriving in the sun, and autumn brings its brilliant display of color as nature enhances the woodlands with yellows, reds, purples and oranges.


Arrowheads and artifacts uncovered in this area indicate habitation by prehistoric Native American cultures. Early historic tribes included the Piankashaw and the Illinois, both of whom were pushed out when the Kickapoo migrated into the region from Wisconsin in the late 1600s.

European settlers in the area originally were centered around the Embarras River, which provided their main source of transportation, fishing, trapping, and, of course, water. Before the development of the railroad, much of the economy of the area also depended on the river, with flat boats carring livestock and manufacturing materials downstream to the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi rivers and on to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

In the late 1930s, the state of Illinois acquired a small parcel of land, and residents of the Charleston area helped preserve and develop it as a state park. The Civilian Conservation Corps Trailconstructed a residence/workshop complex, a laboratory for the Natural History Survey, 4 miles of hiking trails, a large brick pavilion and a dam and spillway which created the 12-acre Ridge Lake.

Ridge Lake, completed in 1941 and currently administered by the Illinois Natural History Survey in Urbana, is used for researching means to improve fishing in Illinois waters. Studies at the lake (the first at which Natural History Survey technicians were able to control the water level) have included investigations of the effects on resident fish populations of lake drawdowns, supplemental feeding of bluegill and channel catfish and introduction of supplemental predators, such as muskellunge and walleye. The ongoing research efforts constitute the most thorough and longest continuous fish studies in the United States.

To further enhance the development of the park, the Fox Ridge Foundation was founded and dedicated to the improvement and promotion of the area. The foundation has provided part-time summer student interpreters, playground equipment and the interpretive pond outside of the Visitors' Center. Governed by local citizens interested in the park's future, the foundation sponsors several annual events, Shelterpublishes a quarterly newsletter and organizes and administers fund drives for park improvements. Supported by the general public through membership dues and donations, the foundations is a tax-exempt charitable organization. For further information contact the park office or write to the Fox Ridge Foundation, P.O. Box 714, Charleston, IL, 61920. Visit the website to find out about upcoming events and programs.


For the day visitor there are many designated picnic areas scattered throughout the park, with tables and grills (ground fires are not permitted), restrooms, drinking water, playgrounds, two baseball diamonds and sand volleyball courts. A large, brick outdoor pavilion and eight smaller shelters are available for reunions and group gatherings. Six shelters are available for reservation. Reservations are available at www.reserveamerica.com.


Picnic tables, cooking grills, drinking water, toilet facilities and a sanitary dumping stations are located in all campgrounds. The shower buildings are closed by November 1st (may be earlier if bad weather) and reopen May 1st (may be earlier - weather depending). Reservations are available at www.reserveamerica.com

Campground Map


Due to the rich, abundant plant and animal life in the park and its dramatic hills and bluffs, the 8 miles of the meandering trail system is the natural focus for most visitors. Fox Ridge is a ravine of glacial moraine and many of the 10 connected trails are steep. Eighteen picturesque wooden bridges and numerous rest benches make them easily negotiable. Descriptive markers at each trail entrance provide detailed information. Turkey, deer, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, turkey vultures, hawks, owls, quail, pheasants and the lush foliage will make your journey both exciting and restful.

Eight separate but looping trails are located within the park, allowing you to extend or cut short your walk. Options range from a walk along the Embarras Riverto a nice walk through the decidious forest once common in the area. A four-mile horse trail is available, however, you must bring your own horse and there are no overnight facilities for horses (Horse trail closed from November 15 - April 15).

The staircase to Eagle's Nest climbs 144 steps to a deck overlooking the river, providing wonderful views during the fall, winter and spring.

A fitness trail offers another dimension to the trail system. Two accessible trails are available, one wandering along the edge of a ravine and the other circling a small fishing pond with an accessible fishing pier.

Fishing and Boating

TrailRidge Lake is well-stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish, however, fishing is permitted by reservation only at this research facility. Contact the Illinois Natural History Survey at (217) 345-6490 or write to the park office for dates and times.

Fishing in the Embarras River is open to hardy anglers willing to descend the steep slopes. Lake Charleston, about 4 miles from the park, also provides opportunities.

Canoe access: Ttwo canoe launches, one north and one south, provide a 5 mile trip on the Embarras River.


The northern area of the park contains 1,129 acres open for public hunting. A windshield card is needed for hunting, and can be printed off at dnr.illinois.gov. The Fox Ridge hunter fact sheet shows boundary lines and describes the area and species most abundant.

Fox Ridge Hunter Fact Sheet | Paul C. Burrus Hunter Fact Sheet

Brochures available at the Park:

Acorn Avenue - Self Guided Nature Trail | Summer Prairie & Roadside Flowers at FRSP | Trees & Shrubs at FRSP | Spring Flowers at FRSP | Fox Ridge State Park Bird List

Park Hours: April 1 - September 30, 7:30 am - 10 pm; October 1 - March 31, 8:30 am - 5 pm


From I-57, take Route 16 Exit east to Charleston. Stay on Rt. 16, all the way through Charleston to the Intersection of Rt. 16 and Rt. 130. Turn Right/South and go 7 miles.

From I-70, take Exit for Rt. 130 North. Go approximately 11 miles.

  • While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
  • At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
  • Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
  • Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
  • We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
  • For more information on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
  • Telecommunication Device for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175 for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.

Parks & Recreation

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One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702
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