Update: 04/08/13 - Gibson's Concession is now open for the season! Please call (309)724-8295 for more information.
With fully developed facilities
for picnicking, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, horseback
riding and hunting, the 1,687-acre Moraine View State Recreation Area,
with its 158-acre lake, is a beautiful, convenient and accessible locale
for relaxation and recreation.
When the glaciers of the
last Ice Age moved through central Illinois 15,000 years ago, they pushed
massive amounts of rock and earth before them, leaving in their wake long
and expansive ridges that ripple across the landscape. These irregular
crests are called moraines, and on their gentle swells and their broad
valleys are scattered groves of white oak, red oak, black walnut, maple,
hickory, ash and elm.
One of the four largest of
these moraines in Illinois, the Bloomington Moraine stretches across
the state from Elgin to the Illinois River at Peoria east to Saybrook.
In the middle of this sprawling feature, Moraine View State Recreation
Area just minutes east of Bloomington/Normal off I-74 provides an
ideal opportunity to enjoy both the tranquil natural beauty of Midwestern
woodland and refreshing outdoor activity.
When early Europeans
first arrived in what is now McLean County area, they found the Kickapoo and Potawatomi Indian
tribes peacefully sharing the countryside. Following the War of 1812,
the tribes signed a treaty with the Europeans enabling them to continue
to live on the land and take game until European settlers moved in. In 1830
there were 630 Kickapoo living in a village in "Old Town Timber"
south of Ellsworth.
The scattered groves of timber
along the streams provided these early settlers with shelter from the
bitter winds of winter, building materials, fuel and shade. The wet, sometimes
marshy, prairie lands, though tough and difficult to turn with their primitive
implements, were gradually drained or cleared, and small farms sprang
up everywhere, taking advantage of the rich fertile soils left by the
By the middle of the 20th
century, it became apparent that the heavily farmed countryside in an area whose topography and terrain precluded many good
lake sites would require artificial manipulation to provide and maintain
a water-based recreation area for it's steadily increasing population.
In 1957, preliminary surveys
were made, and in 1959 the State of Illinois purchased 760 acres in Dawson
Township. Clearing contracts were awarded in 1960, and by July of 1962
construction had begun on a dam on the North Fork tributary of Salt Creek
between U.S.150 and Illinois Route 9. The resulting lake, called Dawson
Lake after the families of early settlers, was opened for fishing in 1963.
Originally known as the McLean
County Conservation Area, additional acquisitions have expanded the area
to its present 1,687 acres, and in 1975 it was designated as Moraine View
State Recreation Area. Development of full recreational facilities has
since made this one of the state's sterling examples of how economic and
social necessity also can provide opportunities for conservation and recreation.
For the day visitor, there
is ample parking throughout the area and eight picnic areas in shaded
spots, with tables and fireplaces. In addition there are five picnic shelters,
three available for reservations and two for first-come, first-serve use.
Children will enjoy the four playground areas. Reservations are accepted through ReserveAmerica at www.reserveamerica.com.
For longer stays, there are 137 Class A trailer campsites with electricity and a sanitary station. Water is available in several locations in the campground.
The Gander Bay campground contains 102 sites which can be reserved. A boat
and dock is also situated in this area. Alcohol is prohibited in all
are accepted through ReserveAmerica at www.reserveamerica.com. The shower buildings are
closed by November 1 (may be earlier if bad weather) and reopen May
1 (may be earlier - weather depending).
Catfish Bay camp area and
Tall Timber backpack trail provide 32 primitive class D sites. Timber Ridge
group camp has three sites. Timberline Ridge horse camp has 30 Class A
campsites complete with water, electricity and hitching racks. Ol' Orchard group camp is currently closed.
A concession stand, located
near the boat dock and launch, offers dock and boat rental, fishing tackle,
bait, refreshments and various supplies. A restaurant, seating 60, serves
breakfast and lunch daily. For information, call (309) 724-8295.
The lake is regularly stocked
with largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, bullhead, crappie, channel catfish,
walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. Whether from the 5 miles of
shoreline or off the handicapped-accessible fishing pier, the angling
is always good.
Drifting and bobbing on the
glittering expanse of Dawson Lake is one of the site's most popular activities,
whether aboard a sailboat or in a motorcraft of 10 HP or less.
Presently, an idle-speed/no-wake speed limit exists for boat motors more than
10 HP. There is a two-lane launching ramp and docking facility
and boat rentals are available at the concession stand.
The Black Locust picnic area includes a public, sandy beach where swimming is permitted from Memorial Day to Labor Day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day. No alcohol or pets are allowed on the beach, and swimmers are to remain in the buoyed area. There are no lifeguards.
For invigorating exploration,
Moraine View contains a variety of opportunities. The 0.5 mile Tanglewood
Self-Guiding Nature Trail winds around the lake finger in a wooded area
and will take you within sight of a thriving beaver dam and lodge. Tall
Timber Trail, a 1.5-mile backpack and hiking trail over moderate terrain,
also provides sites for primitive camping along its course. The Timber
Point Handicapped Trail is a 0.5 mile long opportunity for disabled
visitors to enjoy the pleasures of the woods as well.
More than 10 miles of bridle
paths on Timberline Ridge Trail winds through most of the area. An equestrian campground is available and horses can be rented at the
stables for group trail rides. For more information, contact Timber Trails at (309) 287-6879. The Web site is http://trailstimber.wix.com/timbertrails-1
When the season brings sufficient
snow, 7 miles of trails are open for cross-country skiing, and the field
trial trails accommodate the higher horsepower of snowmobiles. Ice fishing
and ice skating are available when the ice is thick enough.
Thirteen hundred acres of
this park are open to public hunting in season. Moraine View is one of eight
sites in Illinois which has 9 weeks of controlled pheasant hunting.
Consult the park office for specific information concerning hunting
and opening dates for various species. Upland
Hunter Fact Sheet | Deer
& Turkey Hunter Fact Sheet
From I 74, Exit #149 at LeRoy.
Follow signs into LeRoy. Turn left on US 150 to Casey General Store. Turn
Right on LeRoy-Lexington blacktop (County Hwy. 21). North to sign (Moraine
View State Park), next Right. Follow road into park, past main entrance
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity
Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.