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Recreation

If it's recreational fun you're looking for you've come to the perfect destination. Rend Lake offers an irresistible invitation to head outdoors and discover new experiences. Whether your calling is boating and fishing, hiking and biking or just plain kickin' back and relaxin', your recreational adventure starts the moment you arrive at beautiful Rend Lake!

With so many activities to choose from it might be hard to decide just what to do first. Take advantage of information below to get started. You can also call or visit the Rend Lake Project Office/Visitor Center for more information on activities around the lake. 

 

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Bike TrailsRend Lake offers over 21 miles of paved multi-use trails, perfect for hiking or biking. Various sections of the trails offer unique scenic views of Southern Illinois habitats including wetlands, forests, and grasslands. 

Blackberry Nature Trail: This short 3/4 mile trail highlights the oak-hickory forest habitat that dominate Southern Illinois. Throughout this short hike visitors can see common wildlife including white-tail deer and squirrels, spring wildflowers, and remnants of the farm that once occupied this land.

Catfish Cove Pond & Trail: New to Rend Lake, this short trail is located on the southern border of the Visitor Center grounds (just across the parking lot). Features include fives acres of native plants for pollinators, a nature trail, a pond, and a 1,200 foot-long accessible concrete path and 4 accessible fishing piers. The pond is stocked with bluegill, bass, and catfish. Stay tuned for more information and trail maps.

Wayne Fitzgerrell Trails: The state park offers 9 miles of equestrian trails encircling the wildlife/field trial area along with over 4 miles of fine gravel hiking/biking trails that meander through the campgrounds and natural areas. Both sets of trails are great for viewing wildlife! 

Rend Lake currently features 6 different water trails. Each section offers a unique experience, whether it be a sunset paddle, birding opportunities, or fishing opportunities near your campsite. There are sections perfect for beginners and others that offer more of a challenge for seasoned paddlers. Each section can be accessed by a boat ramp. Future plans include developing kayak launches, bouyed rest areas, maps, and trail signage. Descriptions of each section, along with section maps, can be found below. 

Sandusky Cove

  • Loop Length: 3.61 miles
  • Paddle Time: 2.25 hours at a leisurely pace, without stopping 
  • Season Route: .35 miles, 15 minutes one way

This section features a loop around the cove, of which 3/4s is in a no wake zone. It also offers an additional seasonal spur to explore up the creek in the back of the cove when water levels allow. This is an excellent area to see birds and other wildlife. This section is also excellent for those with fishing in mind.

You can access the Sandusky Cove Section from either the North Sandusky Boat Ramp or South Sandusky Boat Ramp. Both launches offer a comfort station and water near the ramp. If you are camping in South Sandusky Campground, you can also access the trail at the boat mooring area near the Sycamore loop.

Jackie Branch Cove

  • Loop Length: 2.83 miles 
  • Paddle Time: 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace, without stopping
  • Seasonal Route: .33 miles, 15 minutes one way

The Jackie Branch Section offers a loop that offers both open water and shoreline paddling. If the winds are affecting the lake, you can cut out the open water portion and head directly north across the cove from the end of the breakwater. It also features an exciting seasonal spur to explore up Jackie Branch to see a beaver hut, birds, and some great fishing areas when the crappie are spawning.

Jackie branch is excellent for a first time paddler to try out that new kayak or to watch a sunset. It also has many areas with fish attractors along the trail for your fishing fun.  You can launch at the Jackie Branch Boat Ramp, north of Highway 154 on the west side of the lake. The boat ramp offers a comfort station near the ramp. Water is not available in this area.

Turnip Patch Exploration Area

The Turnip Patch Exploration Area less of a loop trail and more of an area to explore between Turnip Patch and Ward Branch at your leisure.  This area is very lake level dependent and can change dramatically. One day you may paddle past an island and into a cove that at lower water levels is a field and a point. It is this dynamic difference that makes this area one of the premiere locations on Rend Lake to see waterfowl and shorebirds of all kinds and worth possibly bringing binoculars and a camera along.

Paddlers will launch at the Turnip Patch Boat Ramp.  A waterless comfort station is available. No water is available in the area.

Cypress View 

  • Loop Length: 3.66 miles
  • Paddle Time: 2 hours at a leisurely pace, without stopping
  • Season Route: 1.66 miles, 45 minutes one way

This loop explores some open water and picturesque shoreline east of the railroad track. In addition, you can explore Gun Creek which offers a riverine experience with backwater areas to explore. Bring a camera and binoculars and be on the lookout for wildlife on your trip. 

The Cypress View Section can be accessed from two launch areas. The West Gun Creek Hunter/Fisherman Parking lot along Highway 37 will access the loop section directly. If you would like to start along the Gun Creek section of the trail, you can launch at the Cypress View Boat Ramp off of North County Line Road. Water and restrooms are not available at either launch, so please plan ahead. 

North Gun Creek

  • Loop Length: 4.85 miles 
  • Paddle Time: 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace, without stopping
  • Short Cut: .39 miles
  • Short Cut Paddle Time: 1.75 hours at a leisurely pace, without stopping 

This section offers the challenge of a longer paddle and open water sections that some of the other sections don't offer. Planning for this section should include checking on wind direction and speeds. This section also offers some very unique backwater areas to explore on the eastern shoreline of the State Park. These areas offer opportunities to see wildlife in the water and along the shoreline. Lastly, if you are into fishing from your boat, the trail passes over four fish attractors to enhance your fishing experience.

The North Gun Creek Section includes the area is north of Hwy 154, east of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, and west of I-57. This trail section can be accessed from the RLCD North Gun Creek Boat Ramp which is adjacent to the new Buck and Bass Cabins and just north of the intersection of Hwy154 and Gun Creek Trail. This section allows for quick access from Exit 77 of I-57. A portable toilet is available at the RLCD Boat Ramp. If you continue on the full trail, the Southbound Welcome Center offers a picnic area to take a break, get a drink, and have a picnic if you are interested.

Marcum Cove

  • Loop Length: 3.7 miles 
  • Paddle Time: 2 hours at a leisurely pace, without stopping
  • Seasonal Loop: .71 miles, 45 minutes at a leisurely pace, without stopping

This section can be accessed from the South Marcum Boat Ramp and is the in the cove adjacent to the South Marcum Picnic Area and the South Marcum Campground. The launch has a comfort station and water available. The adjacent picnic area offers picnic tables and a playground. For those who are camping in South Marcum Campground, there is access to the trail at several boat mooring areas.

The first section of this trail is open to the main lake and will be more affected by wind, especially a west wind, than the rest of the loop. Half of the Marcum Cove trail is in a no wake area and passes several fish attractors.

 

Kayak rentals are available through local vendors including Black Dog Storage & Kayak Rentals and Rend Lake Cabins in the Woods

Visitors can borrow life jackets of any size free of charge from the Rend Lake Project Office/Visitor Center. 

 

There are approximately 112 active geocaches located all around Rend Lake, which are managed in partnership with dedicated volunteer geocachers. There are a variety of caches from beginner finds to advanced. Geocaching at Rend Lake is a great way to spend time outdoors, while exploring areas off the beaten path. To view all the caches managed by the Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake, check out the rend-ranger at geocaching.com. 

Rend Lake offers 2 public swimming areas South Sandusky Beach and North Marcum Beach that are open from sunrise to sunset. Day use fees are $5.00/vehicle.

Both beaches offer shower facilities, restrooms, reservable picnic shelters, volleyball nets, and picnic tables. 

No alcohol or glass is permitted at South Sandusky or North Marcum and no food is allowed in the sand. Dogs are welcome at North Marcum, but not permitted at South Sandusky Beach.

Visitors can borrow life jackets of any size for free from the Rend Lake Project Office/Visitor Center. 

Directions to South Sandusky Beach

Directions to North Marcum Beach