Located in southern Illinois, Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area is a haven for anglers, boaters, and RV campers. This state park is best known as a gateway to Carlyle Reservoir, a massive 25,000-acre lake that serves as a migratory stop for 200,000 birds and waterfowl. Nature lovers and birding enthusiasts will want to pack those binoculars in the rig since the park is home to egrets, herons, deer, red foxes, and woodchucks. The park's natural beauty and diverse ecosystem is a wonder to explore. Trek on over nine miles of trails through oak forests, wetlands, and prairie grasslands.
If you love the water, you'll feel right at home on Carlyle Lake. Anglers brag about the catfish, bass, carp, crappie, and bluegill they can easily catch. Sailing is immensely popular since the flat terrain and high winds provide the perfect climate for sailers. Of course, you can see all kinds of boats on the water, from motorboats to kayaks. If you're camping with the kids and want to take a dip, head on over to the swimming pool, which is monitored by a lifeguard.
RV campers will love the accommodations available at Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area. Choose from over 320 campsites with electrical hookups, as well as tent sites, rent-a-cabins, and 20 cozy cottages. With warm summers in the 80s and 90s and chilly winters, southern Illinois is a perfect destination for your RV trip any time of the year.
Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area is located just an hour to the east of St. Louis, Missouri. The closest town is Carlyle, IL, where you can stock up on groceries and gas. The surrounding area is mostly flat and agricultural, meaning rigs of all shapes and sizes will have no trouble on the roads.
If you can't get enough of the great outdoors, Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area is within three hours of two National Forests. Shawnee National Forest offers even more recreational opportunities like horseback riding, mountain biking, and rock climbing on nearly 300,000 acres of Illinois forest. Mark Twain National Forest offers a jaw-dropping 1.5 million acres open to hiking, hunting, and horseback riding in southern Missouri.
The largest parking lots are located by the park office, the Allen Branch Day Use Area, and the Apache picnic area. Smaller lots can be found at various points of interest around the park like the campground, picnic areas, and trail heads.
The Illini Campground offers some of the best accommodations for RV campers on the shores of the Carlyle Reservoir, with 328 electric campsites open for reservations. In addition to those campsites, you could also opt for one of the 36 walk-in sites for tent camping or two rent-a-cabins. You can wake up to peaceful sounds of the water rippling on the banks, since many sites are a stone's throw from the lake.
The campsites are pet-friendly and offer a max RV length of 45 feet. There are so many amenities at the campground, you might never want to leave! The kids can get out some energy at the playground, and families will love using the horseshoe pit, volleyball court, and basketball court. Restrooms, showers, and drinking water are within walking distance of the sites. You can do your laundry at the laundry services nearby, and you can stock up on snacks, fishing gear, and souvenirs at the campground store. Pets are welcome, and reservations must be made at least five days in advance.
If you want to truly get away from it all amidst the serenity of calming waters, you can book one of the 20 cozy, lakefront cottages within the park. The cottages have everything you need for a rustic getaway, including central AC and heat, linen, utensils, and cable TV. The cottage comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, featuring a frig, stove, and microwave. You can drink your morning coffee or watch a beautiful sunset from your private deck. You can request one of the 12 boat docks that are available for cottage renters free of charge. If you want to grill outdoors, head to the community shelter nearby that comes with picnic tables, grills, and a playground. Each cottage can sleep four and can be reserved in advance.
Carlyle Lake is one of the best spots for fishing in southern Illinois. The most populous fish in the lake include white bass, crappie, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. Redear sunfish, largemouth bass, and sauger are also stocked every year. The prime spot for fishing in the lake is the Allen Branch area, located in the northern section of the park, where you'll find a boat launch and fish cleaning station. If you'd like to find a quieter spot to cast your line, head about a mile down the Illini Trail to a small fishing pond with its own pier.
Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area offers the prime conditions for sailing, complete with its own sailing harbor. In fact, the sailing competition of the 1994 Olympics was hosted by the park! If you're towing a sailboat on your trailer, head to the southern end of the park where you'll find the sailboat harbor and marina. For a fee, you can use all of the marina's services from boat storage to showers and picnic tables. Motorboats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and all other sorts of watercraft are welcome to use the lake as well. The park offers three public boat ramps.
If you're camping with children, one of the best ways to beat the heat is to take a dip in the pool. Located near the campground and camp store, the park features a public swimming pool. The pool is open and monitored by lifeguards all summer long, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So don't forget to pack your swimsuit and sunscreen in your campervan.
Hikers can explore nine miles across seven trails, each providing a different experience of the park. The best ADA-accessible trails for leisurely strolls, nature viewing, and bird watching are the Bluestem Trail and the Wetland Educational Trail. The 1.5-mile Illini Trail is a lovely trek that will take you to a hidden fishing pond, which is a great fishing spot for children. The longest trail at the park also features a historic site. The three-mile Cherokee Trail passes by an early settler cemetery from the early 1800s. Please note that all hiking trails are closed during certain days of the week from November to January due to the pheasant hunting season.
Fifty acres of land are open to archery and shotgun hunting. Common game includes quail, dove, squirrel, waterfowl, and rabbit. Archery deer hunting is permitted, and pheasant hunting takes place from November to January every year. Hunters must pay attention to the appropriate hunting season, and make sure to follow all state and park regulations.
The park offers some of the most beautiful spots to enjoy a serene picnic with picturesque views of the lake. After a long day of hiking, fishing, or boating, relax at one of the eight picnic areas dotted around the park. You can cook up and serve some delicious grub thanks to the grills and picnic tables offered at each picnic area. If you're camping with a large group, you can reserve one of the five sheltered picnic pavilions that are hooked up with electricity.