Rice Lake State Park was established as a Fish and Wildlife Area located in Illinois, USA. This Fulton County wetland area has a rich history and a diverse ecosystem. The central attraction of the park is Rice Lake but with an area of 5,660 acres, guests have the opportunity to explore the vast terrain that includes many lakes, woodlands and rugged areas. The park is home to migrating waterfowl and many species of local wildlife. Rice Lake State Park was established in 1970 to include campgrounds and is under the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that has helped preserve the wetland's natural beauty and diverse wildlife.
Rice Lake is one of many lakes that are part of Rice Lake State Park, and as a result, the lands around it are covered in marshy vegetation which is home to many diverse species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Swans, Canada snow geese, diving ducks, black terns, and waterfowl are often spotted around the park during spring and fall migrations. The area is covered with forests of maple, basswood, elm, and oak with the landscape stretching out to include meadows, woodlands, and marshes.
The lake is named “Rice Lake” as wild rice grows naturally in the lake, which was harvested as a key food source by American Indians years ago. The area is now protected and managed as a mid-migration habitat for many species of birds. The plants that grow on the lake water and surrounding lands are an ideal and important food source, and it makes for some amazing wildlife and bird watching.
All sites are well-graveled and facilitated with electric hookups, dump stations, drinkable water, and picnic tables which makes for a comfortable and adventurous outdoor experience.
Rice Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is located in Central Illinois adjacent to Illinois River which is four miles south of Banner, Illinois along Route 24 in Fulton County. Rice Lake has only one access point, facilitated with a parking lot, restroom, picnic area, and boat ramp. The park can also be accessed through the Banner March route that has up to four access points leading to different areas of this vast landscape. All roads have clear signs leading to the park and you can take an array of different routes and interstates depending on where you are coming from. Some of the back roads inside the park are quite narrow so Big Rig and large motorhomes are not recommended inside park premises. Graveled roads lead to the various campsites, facilities and picnic areas inside the park.
Rice Lake State Park offers rustic and minimalist camping amenities for a more rugged outdoor experience. The park has 34 electric only sites in total and you need to bring your own tents, vans, trailers and RVs to spend the day camping by the lake or amidst the woodlands. All 34 sites are available with electricity hookups offering 20 amp, 30 amp, and 50 amp, so you can use electric powered devices easily. Parking is available and relatively close to most campsites. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access available.
Campfires are allowed and fire pits can be found at each site. It is a pet friendly camping area, but special rules are applicable. Amenities offered in the area include the availability of picnic tables, grills, running water, vault toilet, dump stations and showers. Outdoor lovers that love tenting can enjoy many shaded, secluded campsites around the park with amazing views of the lake and surrounding wetlands. The park and campsites are open all year round for guests to come and enjoy the great outdoors and the natural beauty of Illinois wetlands.
The many lakes that are dotted across these vast wetlands offer secluded fishing spots for anglers looking to enjoy some peaceful fishing time in this beautiful natural landscape. It is perhaps one of the most popular activities at Rice Lake State Park as it offers a large variety of game fish such as largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, channel catfish, bullhead buffalo and carp. Many Illinois anglers consider Rice Lake one of the best fishing lakes in the area. Fishing activities are dependent on seasonal fluctuations depending on water levels and migration periods of waterfowl.
The wetland acreage and river backwaters make Rice Lake State Park the ideal hunting grounds for duck, geese and waterfowl. Hunting deer using archery is also permitted within park grounds and offers a challenging experience to the more experienced and skilled hunters. The park also offers a daily draw for walk-in hunters with a maximum of 20 hunters allowed every day on park grounds. The hunting grounds are divided into three fields; the Ridgefield, Vorhees and Big Lake.
For boating enthusiast the park features a paved boat ramp located by the lake near the site office. Kayaking, canoeing and paddle boards are all allowed on the lake waters as well as jet skis and motor boats as long as they are less than 25 horsepower. One can also boat out for a spot of fishing on the placid lake waters. Boat fishing is not allowed during waterfowl season from October 1 to April 1, to limit the disturbance to migrating species.
The park has many trails leading off from the campsite that allow guest to enjoy a peaceful hiking experience. The marshes, woodlands and grasses are home to an abundant species of wildlife and waterfowl that can all be observed while hiking through towering oaks and stunning views of the various lakes. The trails are covered with numerous prairie and wetland wildflowers, grasses and plants. During early spring and late summer the trails are even more beautiful offering vibrant colors and the singing of grassland birds such as bobolinks.
Rice Lake State Park's Fishing and Wildlife Area offers many picnic spots that are placed on various scenic locations all around this vast wetland landscape. Each picnic area has a picnic table and fire pit with access to running water and a vault toilet nearby. The park also offer a picnic shelter that is available for rent for a more comfortable and relaxing picnicking experience. Certain picnic spots offer more privacy than others and more shade.
The park is appreciated for its vast variety of animal and bird species that make it a haven for bird watching. Visitors often see whistling swans, geese, snow geese, blue geese, ducks and grebes, woodpeckers and black terns along the lake shores and the marshlands. The woods and marshlands help enhance the beauty of the lake’s shallow depth in spring and fall while also offering natural vegetation and food for migrating waterfowl. .