If you're a hiker, a wildflower enthusiast or a lover of wildlife, Kickapoo State Park is a prime year-round area for you to pursue your passion.
Once stark surface mined banks are now covered with a forest of cottonwood, haw, ash and wild cherry. Deep water ponds abound with aquatic insects, plants, crustaceans, amphibians and a variety of fish. Bald cypresses, introduced along the pond edges, add to the variety.
The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, a federal and state designated Scenic River, runs through the site.
A bottomland forest of sycamores and silver maples and upland timbers of stately oaks, hickories, beeches, sugar maples and dogwoods are an endless source of fascination for nature lovers and habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. The variety, number and mix of hardwood species present in Kickapoo's upland and bottomland forests translate into a firestorm of fall color each autumn.
In spring, the woods explode with a vibrant display of colorful wildflowers, including Jack-in-the-pulpits, violets, bluebells, sweet Williams, spring beauties, Dutchman's-breeches, wake-robins and nodding trilliums.
In the bottomlands, birders may spot kingfishers or pileated woodpeckers flitting among the stately trees. Other species that may be glimpsed include red-winged blackbirds, least bitterns, grebes, great blue herons, warblers, vireos, a variety of songbirds, and even wild turkeys. A birding check list available at the park office lists more than 100 species documented at the park.
A variety of animal life can be seen, including white-tailed deer, squirrel, raccoon, cottontail rabbit, muskrat, mink and ground squirrels.
Nature lovers should be wary. In addition to the trees and wildflowers that proliferate at Kickapoo State Recreation Area, poison ivy is abundant. People using the trails should learn to identify the poison ivy plant and avoid it at all times of the year.
Fishing, Boating and Canoeing
With 22 lakes and access to the Middle Fork River, Kickapoo is known for the opportunities it provides for water-based outdoor activities. Anglers find excellent fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, crappie and redear sunfish. Especially popular are the annual fall and spring stockings of rainbow trout, which provide an unusual opportunity for central Illinois anglers to fish for catchable-size trout.
There are 12 launching ramps on nine of Kickapoo's lakes. Boat and canoe rentals are available for Clear Pond. Only electric motors are allowed on the park's lakes.
For people wanting to canoe the scenic Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, a canoe rental and shuttle service is available.
Kickapoo Landing offers canoes, kayaks, tubes, bait, ice, firewood and a restaurant. Call 217-446-8399. They are open 7 days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in April, May, September and October. http://www.kickapoolanding.com/
The horse concession is called Thunder Wolf Trail Rides and they can be reached at 217-477-4400.
Kickapoo is unique in that it is one of only a few state parks and recreation areas in Illinois allowing scuba diving. Divers who register and show proper certification may dive in the clear, deep waters of Inland Sea and Sportsman's Lake.
Hiking and Running
For physical fitness, the 7.6-mile Out and Back running and hiking trail offers a chance to exercise while enjoying awe-inspiring natural scenery. The course is rated difficult and is designed to meet the demands of experienced outdoor hikers or runners, passing through forests, bottomlands and the edge areas of abandoned croplands.
For a less demanding walk, there are a number of shorter, easier and well-marked hiking trails in the park.
For a challenging ride, try the 12 miles of the best single track mountain biking trails in Illinois. The trails are rated easy to very technical. Enjoy the wooded hills and ravines of the Kickapoo site on the best mountain bike trails in central Illinois.
Kickapoo has everything needed for a relaxing and fun picnic. Six main picnic areas are available with shelters, tables, outdoor stoves, drinking water and playground equipment. A concession stand, 217-446-8399, offers refreshments and souvenirs on summer weekends, and rents canoes and rowboats daily except Wednesday.
For campers, Kickapoo has two major campgrounds for tent and trailer camping, with 184 sites. About half the sites have electrical hookups, two shower buildings are available to all campers and a sanitary dump station is available. Campers occupying electrical sites are required to pay for the availability of electricity even if the service is not used. A limited number of walk-in sites are available for primitive campers. The shower buildings are closed by November 1 and reopen May 1 (dates are subject to change, depending on weather).
The maximum length of stay is 14 days in a 30-day period. Group camping is permitted, but is not reservable online.
Campers must have camping equipment with them when they register to camp. All campers must obtain a camping permit before entering the campgrounds. Reservations for the main campground are available at ReserveAmerica (www.reserveamerica.com).
More than 1,000 acres including forests, grasslands, edge and cropland are available for the use of hunters each fall. Kickapoo hunters may harvest white-tailed deer (both firearm and archery), squirrel, dove, woodcock, quail, cock pheasant, rabbit, raccoon and opossum.
Special regulations and restrictions apply and all hunters must register before hunting the area. Check the Hunter Fact Sheet for more information.
When winter blankets the central Illinois landscape with ice and snow, cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing and ice skating become popular activities at Kickapoo.
Because some fall-stocked trout usually survive over the winter, those fishing through the ice can creel a rainbow in addition to the species normally found at Kickapoo. Winter also is an excellent time of the year for photographers and wildlife observers to visit.
Kickapoo State Recreation Area is within 4 miles of the Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area, which also offers hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping and picnicking opportunities, along with nearly 35 miles of equestrian and hiking trails.
Middle Fork Woods Nature Preserve, dedicated in 1974, is the only known Illinois location of the silvery salamander. The preserve's 83 acres, containing such upland forest species as oak, basswood, maple, beech and hickory, can be found north of the Cypress day use area.