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Rend Lake, ILLINOIS
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Best COE to date

Clean. Friendly staff. Beautiful area

Best COE campground

Very, very clean. Beautiful area. Friendly staff

Great Little Campground

We stayed here during the winter while visiting my brother who was in college nearby. He and his friends seem to camp here quite often and it was a great choice. Even in the winter the sites were quite clear and clean and it provided great access to nearby trails and hiking.

Due to the somewhat rural location you could not beat the view of the stars at night.

For climbers, there is a ton of nearby trad and sport climbing. The main wall stays wet for a while so if it has recently rained you may need to find somewhere else.

Wrong Garden.

Two of the reviews are not the Illinois subject area but of somewhere in the western US. Garden of The Gods in Illinois is a beautiful area and great for relaxing, hiking, sightseeing, campings, and picnicking. Great for a day trip or extended stay while exploring the lands between the mighty rivers.

Fish and camp on Rend Lake

One of the first campgrounds that you come to at Rend Lake when you get off the highway, this campground has lots of positives and few negatives. Among the positives is that this is a large campground with two loops and two spurs for camping. It didn’t seem to matter where your site was, each was fairly small, on top of each other, and lacking the privacy I like when tent camping. That being said, every site has electric (a plus), and every site looked well maintained. There are quite a few sites on the lake or with lake views, and these seemed to be the most coveted sites. My site was on the lake with a down slope reaching down to the tent/picnic pad (a concern if it was going to rain hard), and littered with sweet gum balls that had not been swept up yet. However, I had plenty of space at my site (#79) to spread out and relax. It was pretty neat to look at the exposed roots of trees along the shore, erosion at work. Not far from the campground is a picnic area and the boat launch. One of the down sides is that you can clearly hear the highway from the campground, and of course if you have a lake site, you will have plenty of boat noise. Speaking of boats, most people seemed to be fishing. The campground does not have a fish cleaning station in it but up near the golf course (you drive past it to get to the campground) there is an almost new looking fish cleaning station.

Great lake views here

I tried to camp here in the primitive tent area, however the primitive campground was closed and I could not find anyone who could tell me when or if it would reopen. There was a sign stating it was closed in October due to staffing issues. So I took a drive through the Class A campground just to see it. Here’s what I discovered: the primitive section is far removed from the Class A (by a mile or two). The Class A section is HUGE! There were several loops and spurs, including one set aside for volunteers only and one that was for Reserve America only (I’ve never seen that before). I am guessing that the primitive section has some lake access or views like the Class A section does (and the lake views are great!). Looks like a burn was done recently to clear out brush and fall leaves along the backs of a couple of loops.  There is a bike trail that seems to go throughout the park but is in pretty bad shape. I would not use a good bike on this and would bring some patches and spare tubes. All sites had the requisite picnic tables and fire rings. There were two campground host sites, but no one seemed on duty to answer my questions. All of the spring flowers were blooming in the woods along the bike trail, which was nice to look at as I bounced down the lanes.

off the beaten path

Located on Kincaid Lake in the northwestern edge of the Shawnee National forest. The campground has three small loops. Two are more forested with smaller sites and one is more open on the edge of the forest, and geared up for equestrian camping. There are very basic pit toilets that were fairly new and clean. You can get potable water at the entrance. We camped here mid-April and the campground water spigots had not been turned on yet. Camping is $10 a night - self check in. No need to worry about finding firewood, as it is plentiful within the forest. Listened to owls at night before bed.

We took a short ride to nearby Ava and checked out Scratch Brewery. Delicious and unique little place that is off the beaten path. Only open on weekends, but highly recommend.

Are we in Illinois?

Garden of the Gods is a wonder to behold… especially if you are wondering how this could possibly be in Illinois. The Shawnee National Forest is a geological paradise that remains somewhat off most people's radar (luckily). Garden of the Gods may be considered its crowned jewel, which does cause it to attract a lot of visitors. The campground is small and basic with pit toilets. Campground is clean and with friendly staff but the real campsites are those that you hike into. There is nothing better than hiking in and stumbling onto a perfect cliff overhang that you can call home for the night. The hiking and views are well worth the trip, just watch your footing on some of those cliffs.

Popular dispersed camping area

This is dispersed camping within the Shawnee National Forest. The area can be tricky to find if you are unfamiliar with the area. It can also get very crowded on nice days due to its proximity to the college campus. It is also very popular with rock climbers and people on horseback. I found the trails to be somewhat confusing and not well marked. I was here Easter weekend and the weather was great, so there were a lot of tents set up right near the parking area. If you don’t mind hiking in a bit, peace and quiet can be found.

Nice lake-front spots

Around $30/night In 2019 for lake front with RV hookups. Cute little on site store for nick nacks, boat rentals, and fishing bait.

Nice chill vibe.

Primitive camp site but super quiet

Bring your own firewood. From inside the state of IL of course. The hiking is incredible.

Nice Campground & Beautiful Park!

We stayed Easter Weekend here in the campground and had a great time. The campground is clean and maintained. Some sites are gravel and some are asphalt. Not sure if they are upgrading a little at a time?? There are plenty of trees for shade. Some sites are close together and some have more room in between them. The picnic tables are old and seem to be spread around as camper are moving them around. The main bathhouse is older, but nice and clean! There is a vault only bathroom at the back of the campground. No water hook up at each site, only electricity. . While you are here, check out the Lodge for dinner one night and climb to the top of the water tower observation deck for some amazing views! Make the quick drive to Makanda and explore the little hippy town. Don’t forget to take a stroll through the secret garden! . The Giant City Nature Trail and Devils Standtable were really pretty, easy strolls. The Trillium Trail is a little more rugged for those who prefer less crowded, slightly tougher trails.

Tent/RV/lake

Great camping, usual campground with clean facility's. My family & i enjoy the lake for fishing , boating,swimming & beach time! Close to town for the forgotten marshmallows! Amazing sunsets over beautiful Rend lake!

Lakeside camping

Ranger Review Primus LiTech Trek Kettle at Dam West Campground

Campground Review

What a great campground on the shore of Carlyle Lake! Right next to the marina and with many sites right on the lake, you can’t go wrong here. Sites looked a bit more level on the inside of the loop than the lakeside sites, but I guess that’s the price you pay for real estate. My site was not the most level, but only steps from the beach with a few trees that might work for hammocking. The site was really clean and had plenty of space, with a nice paved parking pad, fire pit, picnic table, and electric hook up (all sites have electric!). Across the drive was a nice amphitheater and playground and a basic bathroom. The fairly clean shower house for the whole campground is up near the entrance (it also has a laundry room, but I did not check it out). The campground host for this summer is super nice and is likely to visit for a bit as he buzzes around on his scooter. There is a bike path that goes right past the campground that was busy all weekend with bikers, runners, and walkers, and takes you from the shower house to the marina in just a short walk.

Gear Review

Primus LiTech Trek Kettle As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get new gear to review. On this camping trip I tested out the Primus LiTech Trek Kettle. I have to say, this may be my new favorite cooking pot. It is the perfect size for one person (which works well as I frequently camp solo). I used it to heat up some frozen chili for dinner and then used it again in the morning to heat water for oatmeal. Here’s what I liked:

  • The kettle holds just a bit more than a liter of water (or chili), which is about all you need to make coffee, heat large single servings of food, or just about anything
  • It’s non-stick, so clean-up is a breeze and doesn’t retain odors
  • The handles fold out and are easy to grip, and fold around the pot for easy out of the way storage
  • Its super light weight (perfect for backpacking)
  • Even though it was taller than wide, water heated up in it very quickly
  • My little fuel canister fits inside perfectly with almost no rattling
  • Primus included a nice carrying bag that fits the pot and has a small bit of room to spare Here’s what baffled me:
  • The lid doubles as a tiny nonstick frying pan. But it is big enough for maybe one egg. It is so small that I am not exactly sure what you could make in it. I understand the desire to make the lid “usable”, but maybe a regular lid with a colander built in would have been more useful.
  • The lid is not a great fit, and when packing up for storage, it kept sliding off.

Despite the weird frying pan lid, I am really happy with the LiTech Kettle. It meets all of my needs in a lightweight package. It is easy to clean up, packs small, has good handles, and is a great addition to my camp cooking arsenal.

Peace & Quiet

A group of 15 of us stayed here a few years ago. Very quiet and peaceful. We were the only people in the campground and I don't remember even seeing a ranger or anyone at all. We had pit toilets, but had to drive elsewhere for showers. I would come back again.

Breath taking

Beautiful open area with lots of places to climb and explore! I loved the hiking trail that takes you all the way around the park

Rock climbing and backpacking

Ferne Clyffe State Park is in the Shawnee National Forrest near Goreville, IL., south of Carbondale. There are several limestone bluffs, great for climbing, naturally forested woodlands, cliff caves, and several small waterfalls. There are several campgrounds: modern, primitive, youth groups, backpack or equestrian. Shower facilities are available at some campgrounds. Some campsites can be reserved online at www.reserveamerica.com

There are also equestrian trails, hiking, and fishing.

Nice little lake

This campground is located on a small lake in Southern Illinois and managed by the department of natural resources. Good place for Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking and boating. There is also hunting, so some seasons are iffy. There are water and electric hookups, and a dump station. Modern shower and bathroom. Located five miles northeast of Chester IL for supplies.

Dark sky, great stargazing

This is a small lake management by the state of Illinois. The campground is usually not crowded, but some weekends do get busy. There is a shower/bathroom that was clean each time we were there. Water and electric is available at most sites. The campground is pretty far from any big metro area, so the sky was real dark, great for picking out constellations. We listened o Whip-por-will calls around the campfire.

Night of the owls

My wife and I camped here one weekend in early fall. The site was fairly secluded, and right on Kincade lake. The campground is in the Shawnee National Forrest, and We heard several owls calling in the trees around us when we went to bed, so we stayed up listening for awhile. In the middle of the night we were startled awake by a pair of owls in the tree right above us. We were not sure if they were fighting or mating, but it sure was loud! The campground is scattered throughout the woods, with pit toilets and there is no shower. Water is available at the entrance. But, for $10 a night it is pretty good.

Good fishing and caoening

I’ve camped here several times with family and also with Boy Scouts. The regular campground is ok. Regular state park stuff. The group camping area was very nice. It is a large, separate area. We had the whole area to ourselves each time we took the scouts. There were pit toilets, but the guys didn’t care. Also lots of free fire wood, hiking, fishing and canoeing!

Beautiful place to see

I love this place! Every rock as a story and it’s very unique! We drove through Atleast 4 times! I can’t wait to take my son to see it

A little slice of heaven

We almost had the entire campground to ourselves! We got there and got the best lot with a great backyard view. Garden of the gods was right around the corner and saw one of the best sunsets even though it was slightly cloudy. Would definitely recommend it!

This is our camping spot!

I love camping at Rend Lake. More specifically, South Sandysky campground. It is clean, the shower houses are immaculate. It’s always fully stocked and clean. The beach isn’t littered with trash. It’s always a wonderful, relaxing experience every time.

Remote and rugged

Excellent for tent camping when you want relatively easy access and still feel a bit of solitude.

Remotely lovely

Tent sites with no electricity or water. Clean toilets and a covered pavilion for getting out of the rain when needed.

Beautiful camp

Very nice campground with electric and water.

Not good!

Not very well maintained by the State of Illinois. Restrooms are horrible! So many better places to camp in the Carlyle Lake area.

Hickory - Site 99

The Corps of Engineers campgrounds at Rend Lake are very well kept and a safe bet for a weekend away. Showers are clean, bathrooms all “flush”.

Campsite sizes vary, but all are reasonably spaced.