When city-dwellers in Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis want to head out of town for a little summertime fun, they point their cars toward Lake Shelbyville. Located in the heart of Illinois, Lake Shelbyville is a man-made lake that has kept visitors cool since it’s completion in 1970. A playground for water worshippers, the lake sees more than three million visitors each year. The shores of Lake Shelbyville are federally protected and span more than 11,000 miles, making this one of the best midwestern summer camping getaways.
Lake Shelbyville Camping: Head to the Beach Without Leaving the Midwest
Built entirely by the U.S. Corps of Engineers over seven years after damming the Kaskaskia River, this public lake shares ownership between the Corps of Engineers and the state of Illinois. Portions of the region around the lake are managed as Wildlife Management Areas, while others are designated as state parks.
There are over 1,500 private and public campsites in the Lake Shelbyville area, as well as tons of recreational opportunities like swimming and sunbathing at the public beaches, launching your boat from a full-service marina, fishing in the lake’s shallow coves, or hiking or riding horses on one of the many trails that surround the lake.
Visitors to the Lake Shelbyville often see wildlife including heron, osprey, whitetail deer, and sometimes even pelicans or bald eagles. Whether it’s the wildlife or the water that floats your boat, Lake Shelbyville is a great place to set up camp and stay awhile.
The Best of Lake Shelbyville Camping
Since Lake Shelbyville camping options are abundant, we’ve narrowed down our recommendations based on real campers’ reviews on The Dyrt. Each campground offers world-class camping, but have some unique qualities that may draw campers in for different reasons.
Located on the shores of Lake Shelbyville eight miles northwest of the town of Windsor, IL, Wolf Creek State Park is a great place for Lake Shelbyville camping, situated close to hiking trails, the lake shore and numerous outdoor activities. The park has 304 Class A campsites with restrooms, showers and electricity and 78 Class C camping sites. There are also two family tent camping areas, an organized group camp and a horse camp. Shower buildings are closed at the start of November and reopen at the start of May. Reservations are accepted for 140 of the campsites, the rest are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The park is huge and is one of the only state park’s in Illinois with horse camping and horse trails. There are 13 horse camp sites and additional trailer parking for about 6 more rigs with tie out posts for riders that will not be camping. There are several miles of horse trails and the area is set apart from hiking trails and the other camping areas.” — The Dyrt camper Michael M.
Nestled on the central part of Lake Shelbyville, Eagle Creek State Park provides the perfect setting for recreation and relaxation (in addition to all of the fun to be had on the lake, there’s also a golf course!). The park offers 75 large Class A campsites with electricity, showers and potable water that can be reserved in advance and a group campsite that can also be reserved. The shower buildings close November 1 and reopen on May 1. The park offers Class B/S and Class D campsites available on a first come, first served basis. These campsites are shaded and primitive but have access to flush toilets.
“This is my second favorite place to camp on the lake, although not as peaceful as Lone Point it does have the Chief Illini trailhead here and makes for nice round trip hiking camping adventures.” — The Dyrt camper Michael M.
Beloved for its gently rolling hills, prairies, wildflowers and wildlife, Hidden Springs State Forest offers camping, hiking, fishing and hunting to visitors. There are 28 Class C campsites available on a first come, first served basis in the 1,229-acre state forest. The campsites have tent pads but no electrical hookups and are fairly large and wooded. The campground is open mid-April through the end of October.
4. Bo Wood
Bo Wood is a large campground with more than 140 electric campsites and several tent-only sites for those that camp without an RV. The campground on the northern shore boasts a shower house, flush toilets, a dump station, playground and a high-water boat ramp. Oak and hickory trees keep the campground well shaded in the warm summer months.
“Bo Wood is on north end of lake and is the quiet side. The south side of lake had several more campgrounds (and crowded!). Nice COE visitor’s center. Great hiking and bike trails. Close to amenities as well as Amish community. Wonderful waterfront sites if you are lucky to score one.” — The Dyrt camper B.P.
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Shelbyville, Lithia Springs has more than 100 campsites, all of which have electricity. Some of the campsites are located on the shore of the lake and are just a short walk to the water. The campground has flush toilets, showers, a dump station, swimming beaches, a playground and a boat ramp and is open mid-April through the end of October.
“An awesome campground on Lake Shelbyville with full amenities! A great place for family fun and camping.” — The Dyrt camper Brandon E.
6. Coon Creek
On the western shore of Lake Shelbyville, located under a canopy of oak and hickory trees, is Coon Creek campground. The large campground has 181 campsites, half of which can be reserved in advance. The campground is popular with families who enjoy the playground and the great swimming beach. Camping season runs from the beginning of May until mid-October. The campsite has showers, flush toilets, a dump station and a boat ramp.
“There are many sites on this campground that are wooded and have views of Lake Shelbyville. Boat ramp to put in your boat or kayaks and sand beach for the kids to go swimming.” —The Dyrt camper Teri M.
7. Lone Point
If you’re looking for peace and quiet, Lone Point might be the Lake Shelbyville camping spot for you. This secluded campground on the western shore of Lake Shelbyville has about 80 campsites that can accommodate tents or trailers. The campground has electricity, hookups, a dump station and potable water and is open mid-May through the beginning of September. Lone Point can also accommodate large groups of campers. If you’re looking to book a family reunion (or maybe you’re just very popular), the campground has a separate camping area for large groups of up to 80 people.
“We stayed at loan point in a 20 foot travel trailer on site 55 which was a great spot to be. We had a small, narrow, and very steep path to a beach area that was great for exploring and building rock formations. We even caught the sunset on the beach that night. The rest of the park is beautifully maintained.” — The Dyrt camper Melissa B.
Another great option for campers looking for a more laid-back and quiet camping experience, Opossum Creek is located on the west side of Lake Shelbyville. Most of the 70 campsites have electricity and can accommodate tents and RVs. The campground has a few tent-only campsites without electricity if you’re interested in having a more rustic camping experience. Campsites are well shaded; many have great views of Lake Shelbyville. The campground is open mid-May through early September and has flush toilets, showers and a dump station.
“Plenty of shade. This is an older campground showing some of its age. The few full hook-up sites are beautiful. Many of the other sites are out of level. All the site are pretty close to the water.” — The Dyrt camper Kevin C.
What To Do When Camping at Lake Shelbyville
Once you’ve pitched your tent and unloaded the gear, there’s a massive shoreline, acres of forests and fun on the water to explore. Here are some recommendations of where to start on your Lake Shelbyville camping trip.
Ship Off From Three Marinas
Camping at Lake Shelbyville with a motor boat isn’t just easy, it’s welcomed. The lake’s three major marinas—Lithia Springs, Findlay and Sullivan marinas—offer water access from the south, central, and northern regions around the lake, respectively. The Lithia Springs and Sullivan marinas have campgrounds within walking distance of the shore, and Findlay is in close proximity to Eagle Creek State Park.
Get Active on the General Dacey Trail
For those looking for dry-land activities, the General Dacey Trail gives you access to countless recreation options. As a multi-use path, this trail accommodates bikers, hikers and runners along the shore near the town of Shelbyville, IL. The trail will bring you to the scenic Downtown Shelbyville, as well as the eponymous dam on the edge of the lake. While still a work in progress, there are more miles planned for construction in the next decade.
Soak in Sun Rays on Four Public Beaches
No Lake Shelbyville camping trip would be complete without spending some time on the more than 11,000 miles of beach available to campers. Beyond the shore access you’ll have at various campgrounds around the lake, there are four public beach areas spread across the length of the lake: the Dam West Recreation Area (near Shelbyville, IL), the Sullivan Beach (near Sullivan, IL), the Wilborn Creek Recreation Area (near Kirksville, IL) and the Wolf Creek State Park (near Windsor, IL). Beaches are open from late May until early September, and require a $5 fee per vehicle at the Corps of Engineers beaches, and $1 at the state parks.