Sample Different ‘Flavors’ of Lake County Boating
Sample Different ‘Flavors’ of Lake County Boating
There’s a very good reason we’re called “Lake County”: We have the largest concentration of lakes in Illinois—75, at last count. And Lake Michigan—the world’s fifth largest lake—rolls up right to our doorstep. Not to mention three navigable rivers.
The surface of Lake County is actually over two-thirds water, if you include our slice of Lake Michigan. And with so many great boating and recreational options available, visitors may find it hard to choose.
So, we’re going to help you—just like they do in an ice-cream shop when you can’t make up your mind—by giving you free samples of three very different (but equally delicious) flavors of Lake County boating and recreational fun:
Flavor #1: Relaxed, motor-free water recreation
Independence Grove Forest Preserve
16400 W. Buckley Road, Libertyville, IL 60048
Ice cream flavor equivalent: "Creamy vanilla-caramel"
You won’t hear anyone gunning outboards here. On Lake Independence—the centerpiece of this scenic 1,135-acre preserve—only human-powered craft are allowed. Reclaimed from a century-old gravel quarry, this serene 115-acre lake features a marina that rents fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and pedal boats.
Although personally owned watercraft aren’t permitted on the lake, there’s a separate boat ramp in the preserve to launch your own canoe or kayak onto a gorgeous stretch of the Des Plaines River that runs through the preserve.
There’s also a 400-foot long sand beach, scenic picnic areas, over six miles of nature trails winding through forest and prairie, bike trails (and bike rentals), fishing (catch-and-release only) and a unique, sensory-rich children’s play area. At the new, impressive Visitor Center you’ll find a lovely café with panoramic lake views.
Flavor #2: Choose-your-own-fun boaters’ paradise
Chain O’Lakes State Park
8916 Wilmot Road Spring Grove, IL 60081
Ice cream flavor equivalent: "Tutti-Frutti"
Chain O'Lakes State Park is at the heart of a breath-taking water wonderland that forms one of the liveliest and most popular inland boating destinations in the United States—the magnificent, glacially formed Chain O’Lakes.
This incredible 2,793-acre state park directly borders three lakes—Grass, Marie and Nippersink—and the Fox River. Plus, from the park you can also navigate along the Fox River to connect up with the seven other lakes that make up the Chain: Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead. Every lake here has its own distinct personality and charm—some are placid, some are active and others very lively indeed.
Almost every kind of water recreation you can imagine is available, including motor boating, water-skiing and tubing, fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, sailing and canoeing. You'll need to buy a user permit from the Fox Waterway Agency to boat on the Chain O’Lakes. But there's no additional charge to use the modern boat launches inside the park. And there are no horsepower limits on any of the Chain O' Lakes. Don't own a boat? A variety of powered boats and human-powered watercraft can be rented at the park. (Call 847-587-7165 for more information.)
And once you’re on the water, there are restaurants and bars you can boat right up to. Natural sandbars to land on and picnic. Marinas to overnight at. And, of course, there’s famous Blarney Island, a pub set on a man-made island in the middle of Grass Lake. (Hint: It’s also accessible by ferry boat from the Port O’ Blarney restaurant located on shore.)
And off the water, the park features two campgrounds with over 230 sites, scenic picnic areas and miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Flavor #3: Big-Water Adventure
2-98 N. Harbor Place
Waukegan, IL 60085
Ice cream flavor equivalent: "Super-Chunky Mint Chocolate Chip"
In every sense, Lake Michigan is “Big Water.” In fact, that’s what the Ojibwa Indian word mishigami, from which Michigan is derived, means. So, how big is big? Imagine an area the size of West Virginia covered in sparkling fresh water— 22,400 square miles!
Over 25 miles of exquisite Lake Michigan shoreline resides in Lake County. And if you’re looking for an exciting Great Lakes boating adventure, Waukegan Harbor should definitely be one of your ports of call. Located just an hour’s drive north of downtown Chicago (38 miles), for over 50 years Waukegan Harbor has been known as the home of one of the finest charter fishing fleets on the Great Lakes—with over 100 commercial boats to choose from.
Protected by a 1,894 feet long breakwater, the harbor’s full-service marina is also home to more than 1,000 boat slips—with a complete array of dockside amenities—and can accommodate virtually any size craft from sailboats to luxury cruisers. Transient boaters are welcome. Boating season runs from April 1st to November 1st.
If you’re trailering, you will love the large, modern boat launches. On foot? Waukegan Harbor is located within easy walking distance of the Waukegan Metra train station, bait shops, ice cream and sandwich shops, lodgings and a host of full-service marina providers.
Enjoy a beautiful lakefront promenade and park. The historic harbor lighthouse is a must see, as well. The nearby public beach—one mile long and bordered by natural sand dunes—offers swimming, sunbathing, picnicking and beach volleyball. There are no lifeguards on duty, so plan ahead for conditions.