Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area, also known as Saline County State Conservation Area, in southeastern Illinois was bought in 1959 by the state of Illinois as a 524-acre parcel of land. Since then, the park has grown to 1,270 acres, which includes a 105-acre lake where you can do some swimming, boating, and fishing. The Glen O. Jones Lake provides almost three miles of shoreline and has a depth of 35 feet so it is deep enough to provide excellent fishing prospects all year long.
American Indians were the first to discover the salt springs, which they used to create salt for cooking and medicinal purposes. In 1803, the United States bought the area from the Indians that they called the “Great Salt Springs.” In 1818, the government gave the property to the State of Illinois, which they turned into a park after commercial salt made it too expensive to use the springs for brine.
The lake was named after an Illinois state senator who was also the state’s attorney and a member of many social organizations. The lake still has a life size statue made of bronze of a Shawnee Chief named Tecumseh, who visited the area many times. Whether you are going to stay the day or a week, the 45 RV and tent campsites at the park are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
To reach Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area, take Route 13 East from Harrisburg, Illinois and turn right onto Route 142. The park is approximately 12 miles from Eldorado and just a few miles from Equality. However, make sure you top off your gas tank in Harrisburg because it is the last gas station before the park.
The roads in the area are well cared for and easy to maneuver but you should be careful when driving a large RV or pulling a trailer. As you get closer to the park, the roads can be a bit curvy, so take is slow and watch out for critters who tend to wander onto the road such as white-tailed deer and raccoons. Bring along a camera and keep it handy because the wildlife is plentiful out here.
Once you get into the park, it is best to find your campsite and leave your RV there because most of the roads are narrow and difficult to maneuver in a large rig. There is only one parking lot big enough for RVs and trailers and that is provided for those who are using the boat ramp. Bike riding is popular in the park and you can typically ride or walk to just about anywhere you want to go.
The natural and rugged campground at Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area is open from April through September and has 45 campsites with no reservation needed. Each of the spacious campsites includes a large picnic table, campfire ring, and plenty of shade. The pad lengths range from 40 to 45 feet long so your RV should fit with no problem. There is no electric or water hookups but there is a water spigot near campsite 31. The playground is also nearby so the kids can work out that energy and there is an RV dump site for your convenience. You can find several vault toilets spaced out around the campground within a short walk from your campsite. Also, pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
If you have horses, there is a special campground just for you because we know you have different needs than regular campers. And these campsites provide plenty of room for you and your horse as well as room for your horse trailer and RV. The campsites are first-come, first-served so it helps if you get there early during the spring and summer months. There are restrooms available at the campground and you are just a few feet from Horseshoe Creek, where your horse can get a drink or cool off in the water. Pets are also allowed but must be kept on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
There is plenty of room around the lake for swimming so be sure you pack the beach and water toys in the RV before heading to the park. If you do not want to swim in the lake, Horseshoe Creek runs all along the eastern edge of the park. If you are interested in floating, the Saline River is a great place to do that on a hot summer day. There are no lifeguards on duty in the park so you will be swimming at your own risk.
Whether you are looking for an easy day of top water fishing in the Glen O. Jones Lake for pan fish or fighting the current bottom fishing with live bait, you can definitely find some big fish here. Catfish, muskie, crappie, bass, and bluegill are plentiful and hungry all year long. Also, there is a trout pond north of the Equestrian Campground where you can try for a trophy trout for your record book. So, don’t forget to pack the fishing poles in the rig.
Hook the boat trailer to the RV or put the kayaks on the boat rack so you can enjoy the entire lake while at the park. There is a boat ramp on the northeast corner of the lake by the concession stand and restrooms. Although there is a 10HP limit on motors, that won’t stop you from getting to the awesome hidey-holes and secluded fishing spots on the lake. And this keeps the water clear and still, which is better for fishing, swimming, and the environment.
You can bring your horse to the park as well and there is a special campground for you to enjoy. The Lake View Trail and Cave Hill Trail are both excellent equestrian trails, but the Lake View Trail is the one that most riders seem to enjoy. It is about five miles and takes you from the horse camp, around the lake, and meanders along Horseshoe Creek. Cave Hill Trail is about three miles and goes through some heavily wooded area.
Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area is a mix of 1,270 acres of bottomland along the Saline River and hills bordering the Shawnee National Forest. The rugged and rocky area is surrounded by brush areas that give cover to quail and rabbits and the thick forest helps hide the deer, squirrel, and turkey. There is also over a hundred acres of water area to hunt waterfowl and furbearers. Make sure you have your hunting license and tags as well as a windshield card that you can get online.
Gather the family and friends in the RV and head out to Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area for a picnic. During the off-season you have the park mostly to yourself so you will have your choice of many different picnic areas. There are several near the Sweet Gum Trail and the lake where you will also have access to potable water and restrooms. Each site has a BBQ pit and picnic tables so you can cook up some fish you catch at the lake or bring a picnic lunch.