A great couple hour paddle, the Homer Lake State Park is conveniently located east of St Joseph Illinois, not far from Interstate 74. It has three boat launches, and many greenspaces along lake for paddlers to launch with plenty of parking.
The park is 800 acres, but the lake is about 150 acres; just large enough to feel like you "got away from it all". Tree lined with occasional greenways of picnic tables. Fishermen on electric motors are common each morning (no gas engines allowed, which helps the peaceful and safe nature of Homer Lake).
The north end of lake goes into a subdivision of newer homes, and is fun to paddle under the bridge. The middle of the lake, heading south, is almost completely tree-lined, and heron, osprey and deer abound. The south end features the park main house, with information and refreshments, the largest boat ramp, the highest concentrations of fisherman, and the dam. Entire round trip on the lake is likely about a 40-50 minute paddle.
This is a super lake for trying new gear, practicing rolling techniques (sheltered calm water), and for teaching children about paddling. A small rhinestone of a lake within 18 miles of small metro of Champaign-Urbana (pop 150,000).
Picnic areas, concessions, three cement boat launches, outhouses.
Interstate 74 to the Ogden exit, take Route 49 south for 8 miles to the Homer Lake signs. Well posted. Lake is about 18 miles outside of Champaign-Urbana Illinois.
Delorme Illinois Gazetteer