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Clinton Lake in Illinois

Trip Overview

Clinton Lake is a V-shaped, 5,000-acre impoundment in central Illinois, formed in the 1970's by the damming of the Salt Creek of the Sangamon River, and used as the cooling lake for a nuclear power plant. Except for the area around the power plant, the shoreline is managed as a recreational area by the State of Illinois. While most of the lake is heavily used by powerboats, the far northwestern arm is restricted to paddlecraft, and electric motors, and is designated the North Fork Canoe Trail.

The access for the canoe trail is just off the Parnell Road (DeWitt County Road 1200N). There is parking, and a ramp about 50yards west of the bridge. The upper part of the trail is narrow and tree-lined, much like a small river, except that the current is minimal. There are few obstacles, an old metal truss bridge that can be easily passed under which is about 100 yards from the access, and some downed trees that can be easily maneuvered around. The water is shallow and muddy. Further "downstream" the lake widens, and the trees give way to marshes. The wide-open, shallow water can be difficult on a windy day. Bird watching is excellent, and I heard fish, probably carp splashing in the shallow marshes. There is another boat landing about three miles from the canoe launch, good for a shuttle trip, or you can just paddle back to the canoe launch.


Camping is available at Mascoutin State Recreation Area, which is on Clinton Lake, and at Weldon Springs State Recreation Area, near the town of Clinton.


No fees for use of the access, but Illinois requires canoes to be registered. Camping at Mascoutin or Weldon Springs is $15.00 a night.


From State Route 54, take the Birkbeck Road north to the Parnell Road. The canoe launch is about 50 yards from the bridge over the North Fork.


"Paddling Illinois, 64 Great Trips By Canoe And Kayak" by Mike Svob. Clinton Lake map by Fishing Hot Spots.

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

Locations on this Trip