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Clinton Lake in Illinois

by CD1

Trip Overview

Clinton Lake - Parnell Access to Salt Creek Trip
It was a partly cloudy 59F Illinois Sunday in November 2009 when LittleRed, Trailmom and I met at Emo's Caf� in Farmer City, IL for breakfast. The goal: fill the gastric tanks before paddling on Clinton Lake. Tim with his stunning wooden kayak gassed up his white SUV across Route 54, but he did not know us--we'd never met him--so he missed out on some vittles as he zipped off toward the lake. Over eggs, the three of us decided to drop in at Parnell, the eastern-most access to Clinton Lake, and paddle toward Farmer City up the Salt Creek.

At the put-in, we literally met Tim. He had just come back from paddling to the Route 48 bridge and back in his gleaming, homemade wooden craft with Greenland paddle. He joined us for the out and back trip up the swollen feeder creek coming into Clinton Lake. Some winds met us on the main lake, but these faded as we entered the feeder channel. We crossed an odd patch of confused water at the riverhead, as wind pushed the lake waves toward the river, and the river was flowing at high water into the lake.

Once on the 20 foot wide Salt Creek, it felt sunny warm and comfortable at a leisurely paddling pace. The river twisted as it wound through trees and vegetation. There were spiders on the water, likely startled out from their dry lair by the floodwaters well into the trees. The creek flowed noticeably against us as we paddled upstream. Excellent conversation between Trailmom, LRed, TimS and I.

The four of us eventually entered an autumn-gold grass meadow and paddled to a road bridge with a take-out in wetlands at N2550 Road E. The river is banked and grassy most all the way, plus with flooded banks, taking out and resting anywhere before this point was not possible. We enjoyed more great discussion and laughs during a brief standing break (no place to sit down) and then we hopped back into the boats for a high paced paddle back to Clinton Lake with the flow pushing us along. When we hit the lake, the winds had picked up and the fetch is long and we had to put our heads down and grunt through the gusts. The water was choppy and the sun was now behind clouds. All four paddlers were all very happy to eventually get back to the put-in.

This section of Clinton Lake is highly recommended when the water is high. I've tried it when the water was low and even getting to the mouth of the Salt Creek is a muddy paddle trip misadventure. One future day, I'd like to keep paddling beyond the meadow and actually get to downtown Farmer City. An online paddler wrote that they made it to behind the Farmer City Casey�s General Store. This is now the "holy grail" for Parnell to Salt Creek paddlers. I'd hope to park my kayak by the blue dumpster behind Case's, head inside and chow down on a Hostess Apple Pie with a 40-ounce Bud chaser before cruising back to Clinton Lake downstream. I now know paddlers that share my goal in LRed, Trailmom and TimS.


Mascoutin Camping area at Clinton Lake.


All boats require Illinois license sticker.


Interstate 74 to Farmer City exit, travel east on Route 54 through the town, and look for signs for Parnell Access about 5 miles outside of town.

Resources: has an outstanding aerial and bird's eye map of Farmer City and the Salt Creek.
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip