your paddlesports destination

Carlyle Lake in Illinois

Trip Overview

We arrived at Carlyle Lake around 5pm on 9/13/2009 and after evaluating many campsites we chose one with easy access for our kayaks. Our site was number 1 in the Boulder Campground just south of the train tracks on the East shore. With mild winds and dry ground camp was setup relatively quickly so we decided to go for a short paddle. We launched our boats from a gravel shoreline at our campsite although a concrete boat ramp was just 100' further. We paddled out to "Big Island about 1-1/2 miles from our campsite and then explored an old silo in the lake on the way back to our campsite. Apparently when they flooded the area to make the lake they left much of the roads, trees, silos, etc. intact and the taller objects still stand. Although it was just about dark when we made it back we had time to cook a quick meal before heading off for bed.

On the morning of 9/14/2009 we arose around 7:30am and had a quick breakfast, changed clothes, and headed for our gravel shore with the kayaks. It was around 9am when we began our course for the day. Today we decided on the Island tour of the Northern third of the lake. We began with a light wind from the North-East and headed under the second train bridge. As soon as we crossed under the waves picked up to 1' with an occasional 2', we were able to see many of the islands and what appeared to be a distant shoreline which we found out later was just another island group. As we looked around we realized birds really liked this area, we did not see a few Egrets, Herons, or Cormorants but many hundred scattered abroad sitting on submersed stumps, Island shores, and dead standing trees in the water.

We paddled to a few islands south of Horseshoe Island and paddled West a bit to standing timber to view the wildlife. We then headed North to paddle the South shore of Horseshoe Island when we noticed a Bald Eagle on a tree in the distance. We tried to get closer but within a mile and much of the birds would retreat. We paddled into the Horseshoe bay but it was a little shallow and then headed East to what we named "E" island because it resembles it's shape on the maps. E-island had hundreds of Cormorants that flew as a huge flock as we approached.

We paddled to the next island East and landed for a break. During our brief stay we found deer and raccoon tracks in the sand. We headed East again around the island farthest from E-island and observed many large nests in the trees on the island. We then headed North-West and passed the tip of the peninsula which was at this time an island and the rest of the peninsula was submerged. From here we headed to the island south of Patoka Island and saw another Bald Eagle, maybe two, flying from the island as we approached. In the very far North-Western distance we saw what appeared to be a very white shoreline which I will describe in more detail after a few more sights.

We then paddled along the West shore of Patoka Island and cut through the shallow middle to the East side as water levels permitted. We saw numerous Egrets and Herons around Patoka Island and perched in the trees. Next we headed about a mile and a half to Duck Island where we found no ducks and decided to have lunch. We saw many wasps as we ate lunch on a log a crossed a dirt mound, as we explored after lunch we realized my paddling partner was sitting right on top of a huge wasp nest as the mound he sat on had many openings that wasps were flying in and out of, I am very glad they had a nest that supported his weight.

After lunch we paddled to the western shore and found a lilly field done blooming as we searched for an old river channel and saw some ducks flying up the channel to the North-West. The waters near the shore were very shallow so we headed away a bit and then paddled South to see about the white shoreline mentioned earlier. We couldn't count how many Pelicans made up the apparent white shoreline but our guess was over one thousand. As we approached a few hundred took to flight and circled around us only to return to the rest of the group. We decided the thought of a thousand pelicans flying through the air above us would be neat but we gave respect to them and backed away to observe.

The remainder of the trip along the Western shoreline yielded much birds and occasional submerged stumps that tried to upset our kayaks. On our way back to the campsite we visited the keysport marina and public access where we had a break before our nearly 3 mile crossing to our campsite. We decided to paddle South just a bit to a peninsula which made our crossing about two and a half miles.

What a great day of paddling a 6 hour trip covering 18.8 miles with an average paddling speed of 4MPH. During the entire day we only saw 1 small fishing boat close to where we exited the Northern causeway. The sunset was very beautiful as we enjoyed our dinner and headed for bed.

On the morning of 9/15/2009 we were up at 7:30am again, it had rained some last night and the wind was a little more than yesterday. This days schedule is to tour some of the coves along the middle third of the lake. As we started paddling the waves were 1'to 1-1/2' after about a mile of paddling they were 2' to 2-1/2' lots of fun but we did have to pay special attention to boat control as many of the waves were broaching us from the North.

After a little over 3 miles of openwater crossing we finally made it to a little cove in the West shore where we saw 2 Osprey, a kingfisher, Green Heron, and many Egrets and Blue Herons. We then headed South to Eldon Hazlet State Park where their was another cove and we took a break. We decided to cross back over due to the wind picking up and the waves gaining strength. We set course to the Coles Creek Recreation area and during our crossing of around 3 miles in 2' waves we caught a faint glimpse of the dam area to the South. We paddled into Coles creek as far as possible and stopped for lunch on the muddy shoreline on which we found more deer and raccoon prints and maybe a dog's.

During our trip up the creek we saw lots of Cormorants, Herons, and gulls. After lunch we paddled back out to the lake and the waves had calmed down to about 1' as we paddled up the East shoreline. Today we saw some fishing and sail boats along our course. We noticed some buoys which were marking a water inlet. We then paddled North to the Boulder Marina just South of our camp and found Brewsters Creek. We followed Brewsters creek for about a mile until a log blocked our way. This was a very unique waterway only about 30' wide with low banks on the side almost channelized. Again much wildlife including the first Turtles we had seen, some Kingfishers and quite a few Green Herons as well as the usual dozens of Blue Herons and Egrets. We then paddled back to our campsite.

This day was also pleasing with an average of 4MPH we covered 19.5 miles during our 5 hour 45 minute trip. On the morning of 9/16/2009 we departed to make our 3-1/2 hour drive back to the Indianapolis, IN area. Quite a unique lake any site you see and choose to explore plan on paddling about an hour to get there and another hour to get back, and with an average depth of 10' any little wind that comes along can cause quite an exciting trip within very little time.


Hurricane Tampico 140S & Guillemot Cedar Strip


Out of state kayaks are only required to have their states registration and decals.



  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip