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  Chain O'Lakes - State Park   

Northeast Region

8916 Wilmot Road
Spring Grove, IL 60081

Sunrise - January 2001
Site Map Fishing Picnicking
Accessible Facilities History Recycling
Archery Range Horse Rental Reservations
Boating Hours Surrounding area
Camping Hunting Trails
Concession Natural Features Winter Sports
Directions Nature Preserve  

Located in the heart of Illinois' largest concentration of natural lakes, Chain O'Lakes State Park is a water oriented recreation area with outstanding opportunities for boaters, anglers and skiers. The park borders three natural lakes - Grass, Marie and Nippersink - and the Fox River that connects the other seven lakes (Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead) that make up the Chain. In addition, the park contains a 44-acre lake within its boundaries.

The 2,793 acre state park and adjoining 3,230 acre conservation area are located in the northeastern corner of Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties. The park is 60 miles northwest of Chicago, 20 miles west of Lake Michigan and only 4 miles south of the Illinois/Wisconsin border. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline on the Chain, Chain O'Lakes State Park is the heart of a water wonderland.


The Chain O'Lakes area was inhabited by central Algonquian Tribes when Europeans first arrived in the Mid-1600s. The predominant tribes in the region at that time were the Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi. These Native American groups led a semi-mobile lifestyle and grew corn, hunted, fished and gathered wild plant foods.

Joliet and Marquette passed through what became Chain O'Lakes State Park in 1673 as they traveled the Fox River during their Illinois explorations. French trappers and traders were the first Europeans to explore the area. The first European settlement was at Fort Hill, near Mundelein, a large mound rising out of the prairie, formerly a lookout point for Native Americans.

Chain O'Lakes became a state park in 1945, when the State of Illinois made an initial purchase of 840 acres. In the 1930s a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp became the Chain O'Lakes Conservation Area. This land was incorporated into the state park in 1957. A farm at the park purchased by the Department of Conservation in 1969 was originally owned by the Stevens family, farmers who received the land under a land grant in 1843.

Park Hours                                              

Chain O'Lakes State Park is open every day except Christmas. Summer hours, April 1 thru the last weekend of October, are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. During the winter the park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset. The park is closed for all activities, except hunting, from the beginning of November until December 26th.  


The park is for everyone to enjoy, so help keep it clean. Place all litter in trash containers. Special recycling receptacles for aluminum cans are located in the Honey Suckle Hollow Camp Area. Other recycling receptacles are available in various locations throughout the park.


The park features seven picnic areas with tables, water fountains, grills and toilets. Oak Grove, Maple Grove and Oak Point have playground equipment. Oak Point, Deer Path, Oak Grove and Catfish Cove have picnic shelters. Reservations and a $25 fee are required for shelters. Groups of 25 or more must secure advanced written permission for picnics from the Park Office.


Chain O'Lakes has four trail systems. The Nature's Way hiking trail starts at Oak Grove Picnic Area and is 2 ¼ miles in length. The Pike Marsh North Picnic Area has an accessible trail that is ¼ mile long. The park also contains an equestrian trail with three loops and a total length of 8 miles. Visitors can bring in their own horses for enjoyment on the trail. A parking lot for horse trailers with access to the equestrian trails is located near the park entrance. A biking/hiking trail, 6 miles in length, can be accessed at any picnic area between the concession stand and the park office. All trails can be used by cross-country skiers.

Horse Rental

The horse concession is located in the park ¼ mile from the entrance. Guided rides are available from early spring thru the end of the camping season. Hours are  9 a.m. to 6 p.m.daily (including weekends). Wagon rides are available with advance notice. Contact the horse concession directly at (815)675-6532 or www.chainolakesstable.com.

Camping | Campground Maps

The park has Class A-Premium areas (Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den) with a total of 151 sites. Sites are for $25 per night, except on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day weekends when the fee is $35 per night. Three Class B-Premium camp areas (Turner Lake South, Prairie View and Mud Lake East) have a total of 87 sites for $12 each per night. One youth group camp area (Mud Lake West) will accomodate 150 youths with a fee of $2 per person (minimum $20 per night). Maximum stay at campsites is 14 nights in a 30 day period. A responsible adult (18 years of age or older) acquiring a permit must have a camp shelter and set up at the time of registration. All campers must have a permit (receipt for payment). Gathering of firewood from the park is strictly prohibited! Alcohol is prohibited in the campgrounds. Campsites are available for reserving. Reservations are accepted through Reserve America at www.reserveamerica.com.

Dump Station

There is a $5 dumping fee for non-registered campers.

Rent A Cabin

Three cabins, consisting of two bunk beds and a double bed, can be rented for $50 per night (which inlcudes a $5 non-refundable reservation fee). Equipment provided: electric, table and six chairs, picnic table, cooking/fire grill,dust pan, broom and fire extinguisher. No restroom facilities are provided in cabin. Dogs and other pets are not allowed at cabin site. Reservations are recommended. Rent A Cabin


Reservations are available for camp sites, cabins, youth groups and shelters.  A non-refundable reservation fee of $5 plus camping fee is required to reserve campsites, Rent A Cabins and youth groups. Shelters are $25, non-refundable.

Reservations are accepted through Reserve America at www.reserveamerica.com


A user fee issued by the Fox Waterway Agency is required for all boats using the Chain O Lakes. Call (847) 587-8540 for agency regulations. There is no charge to launch boats at the park, nor is there any horsepower limitations on boats using any of the Chain O' Lakes. Only electric trolling motors only are allowed on Turner Lake, a 44-acre lake inside the park.  All watercraft must comply with State of Illinois Watercraft rules and regulations.  

Concession/Boat Rental www.mchenrydam.com

The park's concession stand is open April through mid-October and offers food, ice, firewood, soft drinks, ice cream, fishing equipment and baits, and camper supplies. Boat and canoe rentals are available. The required safety equipment must be provided by the user or rented from the concessionaire. For additional information call (847)587-7165.


Among the popular fish available to anglers in the Chain O' Lakes are bluegill, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, muskie, northern pike, bullhead, catfish and yellow and white bass. Due to the marshy nature of much of the park's shoreline, most fishing takes place from boats or fishing piers.


Dove, waterfowl, archery deer and permit pheasant hunting are available at the park. Hunting fact sheets, containing all hunting regulations, are available at the park office. All hunting is by registration only.

Chain O' Lake Hunter Fact Sheet | Redwing Slough Waterfowl Hunter Fact Sheet  |  Grass Lake Waterfowl Hunter Fact Sheet

Archery Range

An archery range for target practice is located on Rt. 173 West of the Fox River for target practice.  The range and trail are open May 16th until the beginning of the hunting season (closing date varies).  Hours are 8 a.m. – sunset. 

Winter Sports

Ice fishing is a popular activity when the temperature drops and the ice thickens. Trails, including the horse trails, can be used for cross-country skiing, however, the trails are not groomed. A sledding hill is located near the park office.

Facilities for the Disabled

The Pike Marsh North Picnic Area has been developed to provide accessibility for disabled and/or elderly visitors, including a quarter-mile hiking trail.


Natural Features

treeThe land making up Chain O'Lakes State Park is chiefly fresh waterbog over deep peat deposits. The river bluff areas and gently sloping morainal hills rise to 200 feet, and were deposited by Illinois' last glacier.

Chain O' Lakes has a mixture of oak and hickory hardwood timber. The park also contains cherry, elm, birch, sumac and spruce, providing rich colors that attract numerous visitors each fall, plus some scattered pine plantings.

Nature lovers will find a rich assortment of wildflowers in the spring, summer and fall.

Historically, Grass Lake once was almost entirely covered with American lotus each summer, and attracted great crowds, including tour boats. Today, some areas of lotus remain within the lake.

Two hundred acres of restored native prairie provide nesting habitat for grassland bird species and abundant backdrops for nature photographers.

Some of the wildlife park visitors are likely to encounter are white-tailed deer, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mink, opossum, skunks, raccoons, gophers, foxes, badgers, beaver, coyotes and groundhogs. A check-list of the nearly 200 birds that have been identified in the park is available at the park office.

Turner Lake Nature Preserve

About 80 acres within the park have been set aside as a nature preserve to protect a segment of the park's bog environment and the unique plants associated with the area.


Chicago - North on I-94 to Rt. 173 exit; west Rt. 173 15 miles to Wilmot Rd; south 1 ½ miles to entrance; park entrance on east side.

Rt. 12 from West Suburbs - West on Rt. 12 thru town of Fox Lake to Wilmot Rd.; North Wilmot Rd. 2 miles to entrance; park entrance on east side.

Wisconsin - South I-94 to Rt. 41; Rt. 41 south to Rt. 173; west Rt. 173 to Wilmot Rd.; south 1 ½ miles to entrance; park entrance on east side.

  • 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 and clean up after them.
  • 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 Commerce and Community Affairs' 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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