Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, also known as Rice Lake State Conservation Area, has 5,660 acres and much of it is water- so if you like water sports, this is the place to go. With 32 RV campsites, electric hookups, and drinking water access, you can stay for the day or the week. You certainly won’t run out of things to do at Rice Lake because there is a total of 10 bodies of water to enjoy including the main feature of Rice Lake. Some of the areas are specifically maintained for waterfowl clubs such as Goose Lake and Big Lake.
The land where the conservation area is today was bought by Illinois as a 2,370-acre parcel along the Illinois River in 1945. It was originally used as a refuge for waterfowl with a special hunting section for the hunters who helped purchase the land. In 1970, they added a campground, and other amenities and the Department of Conservation bought two more waterfowl clubs to make up the park’s 5,660 acres.
However, there is more than just hunting in the park. Many of the RV visitors come for boating, swimming, and picnicking as well. There are also several miles of trails in the park for hikers and explorers to enjoy. No matter what sport you enjoy or if you just want to hang out in a campground with plenty of water and wildlife, Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is a great place to go.
Three hours east of St. Louis or less than an hour from Peoria, you will find Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in Canton, Illinois. The park is located in the west-central section of the state on U.S. Route 24 and can also be accessed at the four Banner Marsh entrances. The park is not hard to find since there are signs and billboards all along U.S. Route 24.
Since Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is in a very rural area, you will find the roads to be well-maintained but narrow. So if you are in a large RV or you are pulling a trailer, it is important that you take it slow and watch out for low hanging branches. You should also keep an eye out for wildlife that like to wander out onto the road such as raccoons and deer.
Once you get into Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, the roads are maintained well but getting to your campsite can be a chore with the narrow gravel roads. Bike riding is popular here as well as ATVs, so most people just leave their rig at the campsite while they are visiting. The boat dock is close to the campground, so you don’t have to worry about pulling the trailer a long way.
If you like water sports, Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is the place to camp all year long. The 32 spacious campsites provide electricity and there is potable water access in several areas of the campground and park. Most of the sites are within a few feet of Rice Lake and within walking distance to Duck Creek Reservoir, Beebe Lake, Big Lake, and Goose Lake. Leaf Lake, Spring Lake, and the Illinois River are all just minutes away. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit, as well as a gravel parking pad up to 45 feet long. There are no reservations needed as this is a first-come, first-served campground. During the spring and summer months it is best to get there early to get a space because they fill up fast. Pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
Be sure to toss the floaties, inner tubes, and rafts in the RV before heading to Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area because the Illinois River is a fun place to do a float trip. You can start your float far upriver and float down to the park and then do it again or find a gravel bar or island to hang out for the day. There are plenty of secluded spots along the river where you and your family can enjoy and explore before heading back to the campsite for some BBQ.
Rice Lake is 1,400 acres and has plenty of room for your fishing boat, canoe, or kayaks. There is a boat dock near the park office on the northwest section of the lake. Big Lake has 1,000 acres to explore and the Illinois River has miles of awesome fishing opportunities. Whether you are going to fish or just to relax on the water, make sure you hook the boat trailer up to the rig before heading to the park. Boating is prohibited from October until April due to migrating waterfowl.
With so many water sources here, you have to bring your fishing poles and gear so make sure you pack them in the camper before heading out to the park. Fishing in the Illinois River can land you a catfish up to 40 pounds or more with live bait or you can catch any number of aquatic species in Rice Lake. There are several other lakes nearby where you can find bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, and many other sport fish.
Due to its plethora of wetland acreage and backwater from the Illinois River, Rice Lake is a hunter’s paradise. During waterfowl hunting season, over 2,000 acres is open for hunting with a daily drawing for walk-in hunters. You can also hunt deer with a bow. All hunters must register at the check site by 5 AM for the daily drawing. You can hunt on Copperas Creek, Big Lake, or any other bodies of water but there are no fees for hunting on Rice Lake.
Gather the family and friends in the RV and head out to Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area for a picnic. The off-season is the best time for this as the park is less crowded. There are several shady areas with picnic tables and BBQ pits so you can BBQ up some steaks or bring your own picnic lunch. There are restrooms and drinking water nearby and you will be right by the lake so you can do some fishing too.
Don’t just sit in the RV the whole time you are at Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. There are several miles of trails you can enjoy during your stay. You can walk along the Narrows Dam to Duck Island and down to Buckbrush Slough or head out to Big Lake and walk east to the Illinois River. The Duck Creek Reservoir to the west is also a nice walk and you can cut through Barton Field Refuge Area on your way back.