Unfortunately, there are no more beavers at Illinois’ Beaver Dam State Park. But they did build the dam which gave the park its name, and there are plenty of other reasons to take your RV to this charming park which is about twenty miles north of St. Louis. Prior to the Great Depression, this park was a popular resort area for well-heeled families throughout Illinois. Now, it’s open for everyone to enjoy.
Although it’s primarily known for fishing, there are lots of other things to do at Beaver State Park as well. Popular activities include hiking, archery, boating, and skiing.
Camping is fun here as well. Beaver State Park has over 40 RV parking spots with electrical and water hookups. The sites are level and scenic, and the campground has all the amenities you expect, and a few that may surprise you.
To approach Beaver Dam State Park, most RVers take Interstate 55 north from St. Louis or south from Springfield. There’s also an east-west route that’s very scenic and very circuitous. If you travel north on I-55 from St. Louis, there are a few sharp curves here and there, but watch your speed, and you should be fine. The park is not directly off the interstate, and that’s good for a couple of reasons. There is no freeway noise, and campers get to take a scenic jaunt through the woods on their way to Beaver Dam State Park.
Inside the park, there is ample large vehicle parking near the boat launch, the west dam, and the RV dump station. Furthermore, the main road through the park is wide and paved. It is also winding, so once again, watch your speed.
The campground’s 40 RV sites are all neatly laid out beneath towering hickory and oak trees, so your level site is very shady almost all day. Each site has an electrical hookup. Campground amenities include a baseball field, RV dump station, children’s play area, baseball diamond, several covered picnic/party pavilions, restroom/shower area, and a very nice rental cabin that’s great for weddings, parties, family reunions, and other such events.
In the spring and summer, catfish and sunfish almost always bite well here. Park rangers annually stock the lake with catfish. They usually prefer covered areas, like the dam and the campground peninsula. As luck would have it, that’s also where most people like to fish. The sunfish are plentiful here because Beaver Dam Lake is their kind of environment. It’s shallow (maximum depth 10 feet) and serene. Anglers might also catch bluegill, largemouth bass (which are stocked periodically), and crappie. Fishing amenities include a boat launch, fish cleaning station, and a store which sells live bait and other fishing equipment.
As mentioned, this area was once a private resort. In the 1890s, about a dozen men from nearby Clarksville spent $2,500, which was an astonishing sum back then, to build two dams and make the lake deeper. They aimed to fish here, but their efforts also made Beaver Dam Lake a much better boating spot. The main boat launch is near the west dam. No powered craft (except those with trolling motors) are allowed here, since the lake is still rather small and shallow. But kayakers, canoers, and other such boaters are welcome here. The placid blue water is a great place to spend a summer afternoon.
If it’s not hunting season and you still feel the call of the wild, don’t fret. Beaver Dam State Park has an archery range close to the aforementioned concession stand. There’s no charge to use it, but all archers must bring their own equipment. Other restrictions include no bonehead arrows and no unaccompanied archers under 16. Other than that, the sky’s the limit, metaphorically speaking.
This observation deck on the north end of the marsh is a great place to view wildlife in the fall and early spring. It’s just a short hike from the RV dump station parking area. The combination of the marsh, lake, woodlands, and fields make this area very attractive for different kinds of wildlife. Expect to see fox, deer, raccoons, grey squirrels, and even rare white squirrels at Beaver Dam State Park. During the fall and spring migratory seasons, waterfowl join the native songbirds, wild turkeys, and large birds of prey. If snakes and frogs are your thing, you’ll see them as well.
Whether or not there is snow on the ground, fall and winter is a great time to hike the trails at Beaver Dam State Park. There are basically two trails. One is essentially a loop around the lake. This trail is flat and pretty. Another trail winds through the camping areas and back areas around the marsh. This trail is very well-shaded with some occasional steep points. When the snow falls, the lake trail is probably best for cross-country skiing and the back trail is excellent for snowshoes.
A very nice restaurant and winery is on the south end of the west dam. On mild fall and winter nights, it’s nice to sit outside and watch the sun go down over the lake. It’s open daily all year for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Have a glass of your favorite wine or try something new at the Plainview Vineyard wine tasting center. Other park concessions include the aforementioned bait shop along with paddleboat and rowboat rentals.