No, this place isn't perfect, but understand it, and you can have a wonderful time here. There is a north and a south section of the park. Camping is in the south section. You can choose wooded, quite private sites, to busier ones near the lake. At the north end of the campground is a ComEd nuclear station that was built in 1973, and has not produced electricity for 20 years. It is eerie, and when ComEd had their Power House north of there, it was somewhat acceptable, but they shut that down years ago. There are two haunting structures that used to contain showers, changing/restrooms, and concession stands. Both are boarded up, and I can't understand why they have not been torn down. By far, it is better to come here during the week, when sites are plentiful, and the two bath houses are not so busy. They are old, and it is best to catch them right after cleaning time. Take your time walking the beach, and be sure to visit the hotel/convention center…it is worth having a drink or meal there. Hopefully you are in to biking…there are trails throughout Zion that are not marked on maps, and I use that as a warm-up day. The next day I go up through the north beach, around Winthrop Harbor, catch Lake Shore Drive at the border, and up to the Kenosha Harbor. North of there you cut across town and pick up the Robert McClory Trail going up to Racine. That harbor is the best, but biking in Racine is the most dangerous of any city I have ridden in. If you are up to a third day of biking, head south on the Robert McClory Trail. Trails are not well marked, but I have gone as far south as Winnetka. Even if you do not leave the campground, the trails and the beach will prove to be a very relaxing stay. Forget what it isn't, and discover what it is!
A young "officer" pulled me over because I drove to the right side of the road, while still staying on the pavement, and went over the speed bump with the left hand tires, but not the right hand tires. I was driving about 1mph. Then he tried to tell me that I was speeding. The limit is 10mph, and I definitely made sure I was not above that. He then wrote me a "ticket", meaning that if I had a 2nd one w/i 12 months, that they would issue a fine. I am a senior citizen in a Toyota RV…couldn't have looked like trouble. Now I know what happens to hall monitors after high school!
After flooding the Spring of 2017, the park never recovered. Also, the Fuller House closed.I will visit in 2018, and hopefully be able to update this review…I really missed the place this past Summer!
If you are looking for showers, activities, company, and plenty of picnic tables and fire pits, this is not the place for you. If you want to get away, have 98% certainty of being alone, and feel like you are camping on a farm, you have to check this out. There is the noise from the highway, but it is better than most Yogi Bears that I have been to. The unique thing here is that the small town of Winslow (350) put in an artesian well, and they have plumbed it to the campground…every site, all 10 of them, have a spicket with wonderful fresh water. It is easiest to leave your camping fee in an envelope in the donation box at the Paradise Cove, a park worth visiting. Nearby is a gas station with a small grocery section. On Friday and Saturdays, the Fuller House Restaurant is open, with many teas, great coffee, and home baked scones etc. In the evening they serve a dozen or so entrées, and the food is very good. Be sure to check the history of Doc Carver if you stop…you will be amazed. Also, guess where Philadelphia Cream Cheese originated from?! All of this is within a 3 block walk! Biking will take you to Warren IL, where there are several good restaurants. There is Browntown WI, which has the highly rated Hawk's Mill Winery with the lowest cost wine tastings I have seen, and excellent snacks available. For those who want to bike further, you can catch the Cheese County Trail in to Monroe WI (trail pass required). Now, ready for this? $3 for tents, $5 for RV's, and a whooping $6 if you have air conditioning! There simply isn't a better value for getting away from it all. I just hope I haven't ruined my secret!
Know that out of County visitors are charged $10 extra. If you are OK with that, you will not be disappointed with your stay. Sites are available with privacy, and with neighbor-friendly proportions. There is a shelter house along the river a short hike from the campground. If you bring your bike, there is an easy trail in to Rockton, where the Dairyhäus is a must stop. It is home made ice cream, and the charm of the limestone building is picture worthy. There are good places to eat in Rockton, and for those not wanting to cook, a trip east on the bike path to Jessica's restaurant will yield a great breakfast.
As with all the campgrounds along the Northern Illinois Great River Trail, it is along side Rt. 84, and railroad tracks. That is a part of the Mississippi commerce, and should not be used to withhold points when reviewing this campground. This is one of two Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds, and although much smaller than Thomson Causeway, much nicer, and I think much cleaner. Although Thomson has less RR noise, there is the hunting, with parts of the park closed off, and gunfire going from dawn to dusk…I find the trains the lesser of the evils! From this campground you can go north, as far as Savanna. Going south will take you through Hampton, East Moline, Moline, Rock Island, and you can cross over to Davenport, circle Credit Island, and pick up other paths in Iowa. With plenty of sights and restaurants to choose from, it can fill an entire day. For those in to mountain biking, there is the Illiniwek Forest Preserve 5 mile trail, just a mile south of Fisherman's Corners. Some call it the best trail in Illinois. I have never had an issue at this campground, it is as if easy-going, peace loving folks are drawn to it.
First, once you are here and settled, the rolling hills and man-made lake are truly peaceful. I have camped here for over 30 years, and seen many changes. Unfortunately, this State Park is the hardest hit by the budget crisis. The roads are a pot-hole obstacle course, and the bait shop/boat rental, and restaurant is closed. There are always three campers taking advantage of the Campground Host position, but nine times out of ten, you have to wait until well in to the evening for the one, overworked, ranger to check you in. Surprisingly, the bath house is always clean. Do not plan on mountain biking…the trails are open to everything, and the road apples are impossible to avoid…not a pretty site as mountain bikes do not have fenders. The absolute most annoying thing about this park is that there are "gawkers" that constantly flow from Lena, and zig-zag the entire campgrounds. All Saturday evening, after church on Sunday, and anytime you are outside of your camper, you can expect gawkers driving by at 3mph, staring like the village idiot. The only humor is to stand there and make like you are filming them, or taking their picture…although some seem to like even that…WIERD!!! (None of them have car passes or trailer hitches…or, a life.)
First, I brought my children here for 20 years, and we have many fond memories. However, a few years ago the Winnebago County Forest Preserves decided to up the rates, AND charge an additional $10 for out of county campers. That brings the fee to $31 for pit toilets. There are better amenities available for that price.
Three times the staff sent me to sites that were already occupied (with park issued tags on them). This involves driving back and forth for miles at 10mph. Then, the bath house was filthy, so I waited until after cleaning…the same men's underwear was still in the shower stall! The Olson Beach swimming area was nice (it is a pond, not a swimming pool), and the attendant was helpful. However, they have just announced that it is now closed. That negates the only reason to return with my grandchildren. Sorry, but this once great jewel is now underwhelming.