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  Weldon Springs - State Park   

   
East-Central Region

4734 Weldon Springs Rd
Clinton, IL 61727
217.935.2644
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Lying just southeast of Clinton in DeWitt County, Weldon Springs State Park is a 550-acre park for all seasons. Weldon Springs' recreational agenda is among the most comprehensive in the state park system, offering recreational opportunities year-round. During the milder seasons, you are invited to fish, boat, picnic, camp, hike, and view wildlife. Or, you might want to pitch horseshoes at the park's tournament-quality horseshoe pits. When the snow flies, hardier outdoors persons not only continue many of the warmer weather pursuits, but add sledding and tobogganing on a one-eighth mile hill, ice fishing and cross-country skiing to the itinerary of their visit.


History

Purchased by Judge Lawrence Weldon before the Civil War, this site was opened to area residents and youth clubs for picnics for many years. In 1900, Judge Weldon leased the property to the Weldon Springs Company. 150 shares were sold to the public at $50 per share to raise the capital needed to establish an annual assembly known as a Chautauqua. Over the next twenty years, improvements included a dam, bridges, trails, a boathouse, a bathhouse, a diving tower, a pavilion, and an auditorium.

For ten days each summer from 1901 to 1921, area residents gathered at the site to hear some of the best public speakers and entertainers of the day. Representing every field of interest, programs were presented for the entertainment, education, and "moral elevation" of the participants. At a price of $1.50 for a season ticket, as many as 325 families camped for the entire term, enjoying the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors. A contemporary account described the event as "forty acres of water, tents, and teams."

Each summer, farmers converged on the site with a 10-day supply of camping necessities - a rug made of old carpets, cots and folding beds, oil burners with ovens, an old dresser, folding chairs and rockers. An ironing board, included in the list of necessities, served its intended purpose and doubled as a table, buffet, and counter. Food items that required refrigeration were placed in water chests that were cooled by water from the springs. The temporary tent city also included a grocery, dining hall, popcorn wagon, police tent, post office, information center, telephone station, check room and physician's tent. The steam launch Columbia made trips on the lake.

The WCTU sponsored a kindergarten tent to allow parents the opportunity to attend lectures without their children at a cost of $.30 per day or $1.50 for the full ten days. Three sessions of programming were offered each day - morning, afternoon and evening.

Political speakers engaged in debates discussing a variety of issues from which party had caused the Panic of 1893 to whether the country should hold on to the Phillippines. Those who attended heard the southern viewpoint on the Civil War and Reconstruction and the story of Count Alexander Lochwitzky's imprisonment and exile by the Russian czar. Former President Taft, House Speaker Champ Clark, Vice Presidents James S. Sherman and Adlai Stevenson I, senators, governors, and judges all made appearances.

Most popular were William Jennings Bryan and evangelist Sam Jones. Reverend Billy Sunday was also a regular guest. Female speakers included Helen Keller and Carrie Nation, both making return visits.

The rise of the automobile and the motion picture spelled the demise of the annual Chautauqua Assembly, but the site continued to enrich the lives of area residents. The Judge's son, Lincoln Weldon, bequeathed the original 40 acres along with an additional 10 acres to the City of Clinton to be known as Weldon Springs Park in 1936. The state of Illinois accepted ownership in 1948.

The Springs

The history of the springs themselves was written long before our settlers reached Illinois.

The source of the water which flows from the natural springs can be traced to an ancient river that flowed through DeWitt County millions of years ago. This river, known as the Teays River, was born in the Paleozoic Age when the land began to rise and drain the inland sea which once covered most of central North America.

This predecessor of the Ohio River reached a width of fifteen miles in DeWitt County. The biggest river of interior America, the Teays was fed by the Ancient Mississippi River, the Ancient Iowa River, and the ancient Missouri River.

The destruction of this ancient master river began a little more than 2,000,000 years ago when the Pleistocene Age ("Ice Age") spawned a series of glaciers. The Kansan glacier completely covered the Teays, and the Illinoisan and Wisconsin glaciers that followed deposited as much as 200 feet of glacial till over the Teays Valley, completely obliterating it.

The Teays stopped flowing as a surface stream, but groundwater, resting on an impervious layer of bedrock, flows easily through the till deposits under the influence of gravity, seeping out of the sand and gravel to form the springs.

Union School Interpretive Center

Built in 1865, Union School served the rural residents of Logan County, Illinois for more than 80 years. The historic building was moved to the prairie at Weldon Springs, restored, furnished, and equipped for use as both a visitor center and a temporary classroom for area school groups that wish to relocate for a day. A year-round interpreter is available for talks, programs and activities to enhance the visitor experience.

More than a museum, Union School is a "hands-on" learning center with a "please touch" philosophy. Both science and local history are emphasized.

A collection of taxidermist-mounted mammals which make their homes in the park encourages visitors to pet a squirrel's tail, feel a badger's claws, or examine a beaver's teeth. Discovery boxes are filled with natural treasures grouped around a central theme to stimulate students' curiosity about the natural world. Insect cards demonstrate many of the basic concepts of ecology with magnified specimens. Additional natural history exhibits examine the park's variety of habitats, the eastern bluebird nestbox trail, forestry, animal builders, and raptors.

Historic exhibits follow the park's development from railroad holding in the 1850's, through the Chautauqua Assemblies at the turn of the century, to its establishment as a state park. Old photos and other historic memorabilia share life in a one-room school, the Schoolhouse project, and a local timeline.

The Texas Township Community Building was moved to the prairie in 1995. The Town Hall houses collections of bird nests, rocks and minerals, mussels, animal tracks, grasses, galls, insects and butterflies.

Trails | Trails Map

The Lakeside Self-Guiding Interpretive Trail circles the lake, winding 2 miles through riparian habitat where the forest and lake communities meet. A brochure and numbered posts beside the trail interpret natural features along the way.

The Beaver Dam Trail winds 7/8 of a mile between woodland slopes, alongside the Hidden Ponds, and across and beside a small stream. This trail is ideal for a night hike - listening to frogs, insects and whip-poor-wills in spring and summer; and owls year-round.

The Old farm Trail is a 3.1 miles mowed grass trail which takes you from  the Campground to the east park boundary and then through the old farm on the north end of the park.  You can observe the restored prairie, old barns and farm building as well as the remnants of the old Illinois Central Railroad grade.  Bicycles are permitted on this 3 mile trail unless temporarily closed due to seasonal flooding.

The Whitetail Ski Trail quickly drops into the bottomlands of Salt Creek. Birders should watch for migrating warblers, wild turkeys, and eastern bluebirds; herons, hawks and owls. The biggest tree in the park, a silver maple, grows beside the creek in the primitive campsites. Bicycles are permitted on this 3 mile trail unless temporarily closed due to seasonal flooding.

The Schoolhouse Trail is a 1 1/3 mile loop of the 80-box bluebird trail maintained in the park. Bluebirds can be observed from late February to October. Circling the native prairie restoration project, walkers may observe various stages of the restoration process as meadow dotted with trees becomes tall-grass prairie. More than 30 different butterfly species have been identified visiting prairie and meadow flowers. Big bluestem and Indian grass may reach heights of 6-10 feet by September.

The Salt Creek Backpack Trail provides six backpack camping sites along its route for those who prefer a more rustic setting for camping. Campers may hear the evening serenades of coyote; great-horned, barred and screech owls; whip-poor-wills and wild turkeys. White-tail deer, beaver, muskrat and mink are often seen along this trail.

Camping

Named by Family Circle magazine to be one of the "Top Twenty Campgrounds in America", Weldon Springs' campground offers a quiet and friendly atmosphere for a relaxing camping experience.

The traditional Class A campground has 75 campsites with electricity, vehicular access, sanitary dumping station, shower building, cooking grills, picnic tables, pit toilets and playground equipment and water hydrants throughout the campground. Weldon Springs’ campground is open year-round; the shower building closes in the fall and reopens in the spring. Areas for tent, backpack, large group and youth camping are also available. Primitive backpack campsites are located along Salt Creek. Please call ahead for conditions, as these sites could be flooded in spring. The shower buildings are closed by November 1st (may be earlier if bad weather) and reopen May 1st (may be earlier - weather depending). Camping & Group Camp Reservations are accepted through ReserveAmerica's on-line website at www.reserveamerica.com.

Black Locust Group Camp (CURRENTLY CLOSED) can accommodate up to 300 campers at one time. Long Point is for youth groups only and can accommodate up to 50 campers. This group tent camping area is lakeside and located near the main campground. Amenities at Long Point include a shelter, water, fire rings and picnic tables.

Disabled campers are also served. Three campsites designed for special needs offer a large hard-surfaced pad. Privies and water are easily accessible.

Alcohol is not allowed in the tent camping area, primitive backpack sites, and the Black Locust and Long Point Group Camps.


Picnicking

In addition to eight large picnic areas, six of which have shelters, the picnic enthusiast will find small groups of tables at a number of locations throughout the park. Cooking grills or fire rings, water hydrants, toilet facilities and parking spaces are available at each picnic ground. Most of the large picnic areas also have electrical service and playground equipment. Six shelters are available on a reservation basis. Shelter Reservations are accepted through ReserveAmerica's on-line website at www.reserveamerica.com.

Fishing

A 29-acre, spring-fed lake with two miles of shoreline dotted with bank fishing platforms and a boat launching ramp provide anglers with easy access to a fish population boasting sizeable largemouth bass, catfish, bullhead, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish. There are size and catch limits for some species: Largemouth Bass - 15" limit, 1 daily; Channel Cat - 6 daily; Hybrid Walleye/Sauger - 14" minimum, 6 daily.. Only electric boat motors may be used. Fishermen may rent boats at the Concession Stand.

Amphitheaters

The park has two outdoor amphitheaters, Lone Oak and Red Pine, which can be used for plays, weddings, movies, church services, and other programs. Both are perched on wooded hillsides and can be reserved.

Concession Stand

The concession Pinky's Restaurant, at Weldon Springs offers delicious large portions in a fun, relaxed, music-filled atmosphere. Menu includes po'boys, thick gourmet burgers, pattie melts, reubens, panini and more. Fisherman will find bait and fishing boats. Firewood and ice are convenient for campers. Open Tuesday - Sunday, for more information call 217-935-0400.

 

Surrounding Area Activities

C.H. Moore Homestead

Open April - December. Located one block east of Business 51 at the north edge of Clinton.  Tour the restored mid-Victorian mansion which was the home of the Honorable C. H. Moore, Abraham Lincoln’s law partner in Clinton. The mansion is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visit online at www.chmoorehomestead.org

Apple and Pork Festival

Held on the grounds of C.H. Moore Homestead the last full weekend in September. Wear your comfortable shoes and stroll along booth after booth of foods, crafts, art, antiques and more. Entertainment and museum tours are among the festival activities. Plan to spend the day! Tram and bus transportation to various sites provided for a small fee. An estimated 70,000 visitors attend the festival each year. For more information, call the Clinton Chamber of Commerce at 217-935-3364, toll free at 866-4-DeWitt or visit online at www.chmoorehomestead.org/apple-pork.htm

Directions

From stoplight south of Clinton on Rt. 51, follow signs 3 miles to the east OR Go east of Clinton on Rt. 10 to sign, turn south & follow signs 2 miles to park.

The Department of Natural Resources wishes to thank Weldon Springs Foundation, Inc. for its support of the park.

  • 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.

 

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