Lying just southeast of Clinton in DeWitt County, Weldon Springs State Park is a 550-acre park for all seasons. Weldon Springs' recreational agenda is among the most comprehensive in the state park system, offering recreational opportunities year-round. During the milder seasons, you are invited to fish, boat, picnic, camp, hike, and view wildlife. Or, you might want to pitch horseshoes at the park's tournament-quality horseshoe pits. When the snow flies, hardier outdoors persons not only continue many of the warmer weather pursuits, but add sledding and tobogganing on a one-eighth mile hill, ice fishing and cross-country skiing to the itinerary of their visit.
by Judge Lawrence Weldon before the Civil War, this site was opened to
area residents and youth clubs for picnics for many years. In 1900, Judge
Weldon leased the property to the Weldon Springs Company. 150 shares were
sold to the public at $50 per share to raise the capital needed to establish
an annual assembly known as a Chautauqua. Over the next twenty years,
improvements included a dam, bridges, trails, a boathouse, a bathhouse,
a diving tower, a pavilion, and an auditorium.
For ten days each
summer from 1901 to 1921, area residents gathered at the site to hear
some of the best public speakers and entertainers of the day. Representing
every field of interest, programs were presented for the entertainment,
education, and "moral elevation" of the participants. At a price
of $1.50 for a season ticket, as many as 325 families camped for the entire
term, enjoying the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors. A contemporary
account described the event as "forty acres of water, tents, and
Each summer, farmers
converged on the site with a 10-day supply of camping necessities - a
rug made of old carpets, cots and folding beds, oil burners with ovens,
an old dresser, folding chairs and rockers. An ironing board, included
in the list of necessities, served its intended purpose and doubled as
a table, buffet, and counter. Food items that required refrigeration were
placed in water chests that were cooled by water from the springs. The
temporary tent city also included a grocery, dining hall, popcorn wagon,
police tent, post office, information center, telephone station, check
room and physician's tent. The steam launch Columbia made trips on the
The WCTU sponsored
a kindergarten tent to allow parents the opportunity to attend lectures
without their children at a cost of $.30 per day or $1.50 for the full
ten days. Three sessions of programming were offered each day - morning,
afternoon and evening.
engaged in debates discussing a variety of issues from which party had
caused the Panic of 1893 to whether the country should hold on to the
Phillippines. Those who attended heard the southern viewpoint on the Civil
War and Reconstruction and the story of Count Alexander Lochwitzky's imprisonment
and exile by the Russian czar. Former President Taft, House Speaker Champ
Clark, Vice Presidents James S. Sherman and Adlai Stevenson I, senators,
governors, and judges all made appearances.
Most popular were
William Jennings Bryan and evangelist Sam Jones. Reverend Billy Sunday
was also a regular guest. Female speakers included Helen Keller and Carrie
Nation, both making return visits.
The rise of the automobile
and the motion picture spelled the demise of the annual Chautauqua Assembly,
but the site continued to enrich the lives of area residents. The Judge's
son, Lincoln Weldon, bequeathed the original 40 acres along with an additional
10 acres to the City of Clinton to be known as Weldon Springs Park in
1936. The state of Illinois accepted ownership in 1948.
The history of the
springs themselves was written long before our settlers reached Illinois.
The source of the
water which flows from the natural springs can be traced to an ancient
river that flowed through DeWitt County millions of years ago. This river,
known as the Teays River, was born in the Paleozoic Age when the land
began to rise and drain the inland sea which once covered most of central
This predecessor of
the Ohio River reached a width of fifteen miles in DeWitt County. The
biggest river of interior America, the Teays was fed by the Ancient Mississippi
River, the Ancient Iowa River, and the ancient Missouri River.
The destruction of
this ancient master river began a little more than 2,000,000 years ago
when the Pleistocene Age ("Ice Age") spawned a series of glaciers.
The Kansan glacier completely covered the Teays, and the Illinoisan and
Wisconsin glaciers that followed deposited as much as 200 feet of glacial
till over the Teays Valley, completely obliterating it.
The Teays stopped
flowing as a surface stream, but groundwater, resting on an impervious
layer of bedrock, flows easily through the till deposits under the influence
of gravity, seeping out of the sand and gravel to form the springs.
School Interpretive Center
in 1865, Union School served the rural residents of Logan County, Illinois
for more than 80 years. The historic building was moved to the prairie
at Weldon Springs, restored, furnished, and equipped for use as both a
visitor center and a temporary classroom for area school groups that wish
to relocate for a day. A year-round interpreter is available for talks,
programs and activities to enhance the visitor experience.
More than a museum,
Union School is a "hands-on" learning center with a "please
touch" philosophy. Both science and local history are emphasized.
A collection of taxidermist-mounted
mammals which make their homes in the park encourages visitors to pet
a squirrel's tail, feel a badger's claws, or examine a beaver's teeth.
Discovery boxes are filled with natural treasures grouped around a central
theme to stimulate students' curiosity about the natural world. Insect
cards demonstrate many of the basic concepts of ecology with magnified
specimens. Additional natural history exhibits examine the park's variety
of habitats, the eastern bluebird nestbox trail, forestry, animal builders,
follow the park's development from railroad holding in the 1850's, through
the Chautauqua Assemblies at the turn of the century, to its establishment
as a state park. Old photos and other historic memorabilia share life
in a one-room school, the Schoolhouse project, and a local timeline.
The Texas Township
Community Building was moved to the prairie in 1995. The Town Hall houses
collections of bird nests, rocks and minerals, mussels, animal tracks,
grasses, galls, insects and butterflies.
NOTE: There are
no bicycle trails at Weldon Springs
The Lakeside Self-Guiding
Interpretive Trail circles the lake, winding 2 miles through riparian
habitat where the forest and lake communities meet. A brochure and numbered
posts beside the trail interpret natural features along the way.
The Beaver Dam Trail
winds 7/8 of a mile between woodland slopes, alongside the Hidden Ponds,
and across and beside a small stream. This trail is ideal for a night
hike - listening to frogs, insects and whip-poor-wills in spring and summer;
and owls year-round.
The Whitetail Ski
Trail quickly drops into the bottomlands of Salt Creek. Birders should
watch for migrating warblers, wild turkeys, and eastern bluebirds; herons,
hawks and owls. The biggest tree in the park, a silver maple, grows beside
the creek in the primitive campsites. This 2 7/8 mile trail may be flooded
The Schoolhouse Trail
is a 1 1/3 mile loop of the 80-box bluebird trail maintained in the park.
Bluebirds can be observed from late February to October. Circling the
native prairie restoration project, walkers may observe various stages
of the restoration process as meadow dotted with trees becomes tall-grass
prairie. More than 30 different butterfly species have been identified
visiting prairie and meadow flowers. Big bluestem and Indian grass may
reach heights of 6-10 feet by September.
The Salt Creek Backpack
Trail provides six backpack camping sites along its route for those who
prefer a more rustic setting for camping. Campers may hear the evening
serenades of coyote; great-horned, barred and screech owls; whip-poor-wills
and wild turkeys. White-tail deer, beaver, muskrat and mink are often
seen along this trail.
Named by Family
Circle magazine to be one of the "Top Twenty Campgrounds in America",
Weldon Springs' campground offers a quiet and friendly atmosphere for
a relaxing camping experience.
The traditional Class
A campground has 75 campsites with electricity, vehicular access,
dumping station, shower building, cooking grills, picnic tables, pit
toilets and playground equipment and water hydrants throughout the
Weldon Springs’ campground is open year-round; the shower building
closes in the fall and reopens in the spring. Areas for
tent, backpack, large group and youth camping are also available. Primitive
backpack campsites are located along Salt Creek. Please call ahead for
conditions, as these sites could be flooded in spring. The
shower buildings are closed by November 1st (may be earlier if bad weather)
and reopen May 1st (may be earlier - weather depending). Camping & Group Camp Reservations are accepted through ReserveAmerica's on-line website at www.reserveamerica.com.
Black Locust Group
Camp (CURRENTLY CLOSED) can accommodate up to 300 campers at one time. Long Point is for
youth groups only and can accommodate up to 50 campers. This group tent
camping area is lakeside and located near the main campground. Amenities
at Long Point include a shelter, water, fire rings and picnic tables.
Disabled campers are
also served. Three campsites designed for special needs offer a large
hard-surfaced pad. Privies and water are easily accessible.
Alcohol is not allowed
in the tent camping area, primitive backpack sites, and the Black Locust
and Long Point Group Camps.
In addition to eight
large picnic areas, six of which have shelters, the picnic enthusiast
will find small groups of tables at a number of locations throughout the
park. Cooking grills or fire rings, water hydrants, toilet facilities
and parking spaces are available at each picnic ground. Most of the large
picnic areas also have electrical service and playground equipment. Six
shelters are available on a reservation basis. Shelter Reservations are accepted through ReserveAmerica's on-line website at www.reserveamerica.com.
29-acre, spring-fed lake with two miles of shoreline dotted with bank
fishing platforms and a boat launching ramp provide anglers with easy
access to a fish population boasting sizeable largemouth bass, catfish,
bullhead, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish. There are size and catch limits
for some species: Largemouth Bass - 15" limit, 1 daily; Channel
Cat - 6 daily; Hybrid Walleye/Sauger - 14" minimum, 6 daily.. Only electric boat motors may be used. Fishermen may
rent boats at the Concession Stand.
The park has two outdoor
amphitheaters, Lone Oak and Red Pine, which can be used for plays, weddings,
movies, church services, and other programs. Both are perched on wooded
hillsides and can be reserved.
concession Pinky's Restaurant, at Weldon Springs offers delicious large portions in a fun, relaxed, music-filled atmosphere. Menu includes po'boys, thick gourmet burgers, pattie melts, reubens, panini and more. Fisherman
will find bait and fishing boats. Firewood and ice
are convenient for campers. Open Tuesday - Sunday, for more information call 217-935-0400.
Surrounding Area Activities
C.H. Moore Homestead
Open April - December. Located one block east of Business 51 at the north edge of Clinton. Tour the restored mid-Victorian mansion which was the home of the Honorable C. H. Moore, Abraham Lincoln’s law partner in Clinton. The mansion is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visit online at www.chmoorehomestead.org
Apple and Pork Festival
Held on the grounds of C.H. Moore Homestead the last full weekend in September. Wear your comfortable shoes and stroll along booth after booth of foods, crafts, art, antiques and more. Entertainment and museum tours are among the festival activities. Plan to spend the day! Tram and bus transportation to various sites provided for a small fee. An estimated 70,000 visitors attend the festival each year. For more information, call the Clinton Chamber of Commerce at 217-935-3364, toll free at 866-4-DeWitt or visit online at www.chmoorehomestead.org/apple-pork.htm
From stoplight south
of Clinton on Rt. 51, follow signs 3 miles to the east OR Go east of Clinton
on Rt. 10 to sign, turn south & follow signs 2 miles to park.
Department of Natural Resources wishes to thank
Weldon Springs Foundation, Inc. for its support of the park.
- 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.