A Brief History of Boating on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes

The Chain O’Lakes has an extensive history dating back to the mid-1800s when passengers were transported by steam paddle-wheelers as well as goods up and down between the Fox and McHenry Rivers in Spring Grove.

The Chain O' Lakes have three natural lake: Grass Lake, Lake Marie and Nippersink Lake,, while the other seven lakes are connected by the Fox River like Bluff Lake, Fox Lake, Pistakee Lake, Channel Lake, Petite Lake, Lake Catherine and Redhead Lake. The rest of the lake in the system called the Duck, Long, Spring, Dunns and Brandenburg Lakes. 

This area was settled originally by the central Algonquin Tribe which was ultimately taken over by French trappers and traders in the 1600s.

Today, the Fox Chain is known as the world’s busiest waterway on a per acre basis.

The State of Illinois made the Chain O’Lakes a state park in 1945 when the purchase was initially of 80 acres. The state park now sits on 2,703 acres and adjoins to 3230 conservation area in both Lake and McHenry County.

From this recreational area sprouted a boating and racing heritage producing 32 boat racers who have recorded 48 National Championship Titles. Of these successful racers, there were 26 or more World Speed Records on water set.

Besides the lake system, Chain O’ Lakes obtains seven picnic areas equipped with tables, water fountains, grills and toilets as well as four trails. The picnic areas are Oak Grove, Maple Grove and Oak Point with playground equipment.

With Boating Safety Week going on May 16-21, and the time approaching so quickly for boating season (well it’s already began but this weather is so unpredictable), a weekend getaway at to the Fox Chain O’ Lakes is perfect for nearing extended weekends like Memorial Day weekend.


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