The Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, also known as Sam Dale Lake Conservation Area, in Johnsonville, Illinois is about 12 miles from Flora and has a plethora of exciting things to do all year long. This 1,302-acre park in southwestern Illinois has a 194-acre lake with five miles of shoreline to fish, swim, and just have fun. There are two RV and tent campgrounds with 66 campsites that include electricity, water access, restrooms.
The park was first just a 40-acre parcel of land that the state bought in 1959 but they have built onto it over the years. It was named after a state representative, Sam O. Dale, who was also a superintendent, principal, and teacher at some of the local schools. The park has a spacious area of rolling hills and meadows with vibrantly-colored wildflowers and lots of mature trees to provide shade.
If you just want to spend the day with your family and friends, there are also three picnic shelters that hold up to 40 people. They have electricity, restrooms, BBQ pits, six tables and they all allow pets as long as they are on a leash. You can also go hiking, horseback riding, geocaching, or hunting in the lush forests that surround the park.
Off Interstate 57 on route 161 East in Johnsonville, Illinois, you can find the beautiful Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. Just a couple hours from St. Louis, an hour from Centralia, and 45 minutes from Salem, the park is close enough to the city to be easily accessible while being rural and rugged at the same time. You will not have to worry about the highway noise back in the woods.
Take it slow and easy if you are driving a big rig or pulling a trailer because once you get off the interstate, the roads are narrow and tricky. You should also keep a camera handy so you can get some shots of the beautiful Illinois countryside. Watch for animals like deer and foxes that tend to wander across the road in some of these areas.
At the park, most of the roads are gravel and can have low-hanging branches that need to be avoided so be careful and drive slowly. Most visitors park their rig at the campsite and just walk or bike around the park wherever they want to go. However, there are several large parking lots that can accommodate even the largest RVs and trailers.
Hickory Hollow Campground has 33 electric campsites with picnic tables and fire pits that are open all year long. The pad lengths vary from 25 to 58 feet long. This campground is on the west side of the lake just a few feet from the water. There are restrooms by campsites nine and 36 and two water spigots in the middle of the campground with another by campsite 33. You can also find a playground and RV dump site nearby. Dogs are allowed but they must be on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
Lake View Campground has 33 electric sites with picnic tables and fire pits that are open year-round. The pad lengths run from 40 to 64 feet long so you have plenty of room for even the biggest RV. At this campground on the northwestern corner of the lake, you will be just a few feet from the water. There is also a boat dock and playground nearby. There are restrooms in the northwest corner of the campground and the southern end of the campground. Potable water access is available by the host campsite number 68, and near sites 44 and 60. Dogs are allowed but they must be on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, this is at the discretion of the camp host and is on a day to day basis so you may have to move if someone reserves the site you are at. Be sure to notify the camp host before unpacking.
Toss the floats and other beach toys in the camper before heading out so you can hit the beach as soon as you get there. You can swim anywhere on the lake, but the Lake View Campground has a beach on the northwestern corner of the lake. There are also several great places to swim by the Persimmon Point, Maple Grove, and Poplar Grove shelter areas. If you want a more secluded place to swim, try the northeastern end of the lake, where there are no shelters, campgrounds, or boat docks.
From mid-April until November you can enjoy the Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area with your horse as well so hook up the horse trailer to the RV. This eight-and-a-half-mile equestrian trail takes you and your equestrian pal through gently rolling terrain and lush wooded areas of pines and oaks. You can expect to see plenty of wildlife including beaver, whitetail deer, turkeys, and rabbits so keep your camera handy. The trail takes you around the perimeter of the park and around the eastern end of the Sam Dale Lake.
The 194-acre Sam Dale Lake boasts a large amount of sport fishing opportunities so make sure you pack your fishing gear in the camper. Whether you are into top fishing or going deep with a heavy weight and some live bait, there is something for everyone. The majority of the fish caught at the lake include bluegill, catfish, bass, muskie, and crappie. There is a separate trout pond where trout are stocked in the spring and the fall so this is a popular trout fishing park as well.
With plenty of open fields and evergreen patches, Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is the perfect place to hunt for many species. There are 930 acres posted for hunting and you can get your windshield cards online to put in your window. The main species being hunted here include turkey, white tail deer, rabbits, quail, and squirrel. There are also some excellent places on the lake to hunt doves and waterfowl as well. However, you should make sure you have your Illinois license before hunting though.
Be sure to bring along your metal detector and equipment in the RV so you can search for some buried treasure. The off-season is a great time for this because the park is less crowded, and you can search those empty campsites, beaches, and shelters. You will be surprised what you can find here from old jewelry to coins and maybe some interesting artifacts. With over 1,300 acres to search, you will be sure to find something awesome.
The Sam Dale Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area has three trails. One is a short trail of about two miles out and back right that starts by the southwestern parking lot. This trail takes you all along the southern part of the lake past the playgrounds, shelters, a concession stand, and a boat ramp. Another is the three-mile loop trail that starts and ends at the Lake View Campground. And the eight-and-a-half-mile equestrian trail is also a great way to see the entire park.