If you're looking for the ideal place to drop your line, enjoy a day on the boat, or a weekend camping, visit Clinton Lake State Recreation Area in east central Illinois. Recreational opportunities abound at the 9,300-acre site. Clinton Lake is the cooling lake for the Exelon Power Station, and the IDNR manages recreation on the lake and surrounding lands.
The 4,900-acre lake and outstanding fishing are the primary draws, with accessible boat launches at the Mascoutin and West Side Access Areas, a fishing pier at the Spillway Access Area, and bank fishing at Valley Mill. From crappie to catfish to bass and walleye - anglers love Clinton Lake.
Clinton is a busy boating lake for motorboats big and small, and sail boating is also popular. A beautiful, 1,000-foot sand beach awaits swimmers and sunbathers, open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Hiking trails throughout the site and along the lake shoreline range from easy to moderate in difficulty. Picnic areas and playgrounds are found throughout the site, while campgrounds feature 17 Class AA campsites, 277 Class A campsites and 14 Class B/S campsites.
Clinton Lake SRA has more than 3,600 acres for rabbit, pheasant, squirrel, dove, archery and firearm deer hunting, as well special deer, pheasant, and waterfowl hunts for youth and hunters with disabilities. Waterfowl hunting is available by anchored boat blind on the main lake, and walk-in areas by temporary or site-constructed blinds and shore boats. Salt Creek Wetland Waterfowl Management Area is available through the Public Duck and Goose Hunting online lottery.
Try the archery range, complete with a shooting tower, just east of the North Fork Boat Access Area where you can take aim at life-size targets of deer and turkey. Some of the targets are accessible to wheelchair-bound archers. Contact the site office for details on Clinton Lake's designated hunting area for disabled hunters.
Clinton Lake is No Wake for all boats from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise with the exception of waterfowl hunters. There are no horsepower limitations in the lake’s main basin. Sailboating is popular. When the wind gets up, the lake can be very rough. Small watercraft are urged to stick to the north fork arm of Salt Creek on rough days. Six public boat ramps and one canoe launch are available. All DNR ramps are now equipped with wheelchair accessible boat docks.
The 4,900-acre lake and outstanding fishing is what draws people to the park. Special accessible piers are present at the Mascoutin Access Area, the Spillway Access Area and the Valley Mill Bank Fishing Area. If you’re dropping your line here, chances are you’re fishing for crappie. Hook them with white, yellow or chartreuse jigs and minnows, which seem to work the best.
Clinton Lake is one of the best lakes in the state for catfish. Most of them are taken from the banks, or in the upper arms of the lake. Hybrid and pure striped bass fishing is popular here, with numerous fish more than 10 pounds taken every year.
For good eating, it is hard to beat a walleye and Clinton Lake has plenty of them. Banks adjacent to bridges are excellent places to catch walleye and boaters can hit the Old Creek channels or submerged flats. For some great spring action, the spillway area yields large numbers of both walleye and stripers, as well as crappie and catfish. Clinton Lake also provides good action for largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass and bluegill. Special size and creel limits are in effect for most species.
Fishing Tournaments - Clinton Lake is host to dozens of charitable and competitive fishing tournaments each year. Organizers of these events must apply for a tournament permit online at www.Ifishillinois.org. Special rules and regulations apply to these events. Please note – The total number of tournament boats will be limited to 80 per day. Tournament directors should check the tournament calendar prior to selecting a date and submitting an application. No tournament may launch from Mascoutin boat ramp May 1 through September 30. From July 1 to August 15, tournaments must end at noon and weigh-ins must be completed by 2:00 pm.
More than 3,600 huntable acres are available at Clinton Lake. The most common species are rabbit, pheasant, squirrel and dove, although quail and woodcock also are present. Deer can be taken in season by archery only. A limited number of shotgun and muzzleloader deer hunting permits, as well as youth and Spring turkey, are available through the Statewide lottery drawing. Waterfowl hunting is permitted on the main lake basin from anchored boat blinds and in designated walk-in areas.
A special youth pheasant hunt will be conducted in October at Clinton Lake. For more information contact the Clinton Lake office.
Swimming & Water Skiing
A beautiful, 1,000-foot white sand beach awaits swimmers and sunbathers looking to catch some rays or frolic in the warm waters of the lake. The beach is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days per week, weather permitting. There is a changing facility with showers and restrooms. No lifeguards are present; remain in the buoyed areas and swim with caution. No pets, glass, sharp objects or alcohol are allowed on the beach.
Waterskiing on Clinton Lake is a blast and permitted from the Route 54 bridge to the Route 48 bridge. Beach fees are $2 per day per person. Swimming is allowed in other areas of the lake, but not within 100 yards of bridges, boat ramps or boat docks.
Mascoutin Campground has a one-mile multi-use limestone trail between the campground and the beach. Bicycles are also permitted on the 5.5 miles of hiking trails located north of the beach including the Houseboat Cove Trail, Pond in Woods Trail and the North Loop Trail. These trails are not paved and consist of either mowed grass or natural earth surfaces. They are easy to moderate in difficulty and follow the shoreline through the woods. Other hiking trails within the Mascoutin Campground area include the 2 mile shoreline trail. Bicycles are not permitted on the Shoreline Trail because of the numerous stairways and wooden bridges.
The 9.3-mile North Fork Hiking Trail is primitive and rated as difficult. The trail is not surfaced and runs through steep wooded banks, and provides unparalleled views of the lake and opportunities to view wildlife. There are no exits once you enter the trail, so be prepared for 4.2 miles up and 5.1 miles back. The trail features a 40-acre restored prairie along the North Fork, but beautiful wildflowers can be seen along both trails. A ten mile equestrian/hiking/cross-country ski trail is located on the north side of the lake east of the Parnell Access Area. Horse trailer parking is provided at the Parnell Access Area where a wheelchair ramp for mounting horses is available. There are no rentals or horse camping facilities at Clinton Lake. All equestrian trails are closed to bicycles year round.
When the temperature drops, don’t huddle inside. Come to Clinton Lake. Ice fishing, ice skating and snowmobiling are allowed on the lake when the ice is thick enough. The North Fork and the coves on Salt Creek are good for ice fishing and skating. In the warmer areas of the lake, folks drop their lines from the bank all winter long. The hiking and equestrian trails double as cross-country ski trails in the winter and provide a great workout.