Monday, December 3, 2012

Clinton Lake SRA

Clinton Lake, a 4,300 acre cooling lake for the Clinton Nuclear Power Plant, was formed in the 1970’s by damming Salt Creek just downstream of the confluence with the North Fork of Salt Creek in DeWitt County.

The nearby village of DeWitt is named for DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York, 1817-1823. Of course, the city of Clinton, the county seat of DeWitt County is also named for the same man.

The park has three hiking trails. The 5 mile Houseboat Cove Trail is rated easy to moderate. It follows the shoreline near the beach. The 10 mile equestrian trail is by the north side of the lake. It can be hiked or XC-skied in the winter. The 11 mile North Fork Trail is the most challenging. 

I arrived at around 3:30 pm on Saturday. I took a 3.33 mile hike on the North Fork Trail. This trail is fairly challenging with quite a lot of steep ups and downs. There are several very pretty scenic overlooks and you can look down over the North Fork of the Salt Creek as it flows into Clinton Lake.

I was hiking pretty fast because I wanted to get in and out of the trail before dark fell. I made good time at 4MPH. I was able to determine my rate pretty accurately because the trail has mile markers clearly posted. The trail is also very well marked with white blazes.

Today I hiked in 2 state parks and did a total of about six miles, 3.3 of which were reasonably strenuous up and down hiking. I had my winter load packed fully into the Blast 30. I was carrying about 23 lbs, including two days of food, 2 liters of water, and 4 oz. of fuel and my camera setup. I am excited that I have been able to keep my winter pack weight down below 25 lbs. When the really cold weather hits in January, I think I will be able to keep the pack weight below or just at 25 lbs overall. The pack carried very well and the carbon stays helped transfer the weight to my hips pretty efficiently. This was the first time I had used the stays and I am favorably impressed.

I was thinking of stealth camping on the North Fork Trail.  But because muzzle load deer season is open now, I thought it was not a good idea to camp where hunters may be shooting early in the morning.  So I stayed overnight at a designated campground.

The HG Incubator 20* was really toasty as temps fell into the upper 40s with high and gusty winds. I slept very well until some fishermen launched their boat at around 5:30 a.m.  I didn't get any video of my camp because it was too dark when I arrived and also when I left early in the morning.


  1. Just stumbled across your blog, from Hammock Forums! I live in Central IL and aspire to hike the AT in the coming years, but always thought we lived in the worst possible area to practice hike in. Your blog has certainly changed my mind. :)

    Did you hang at Clinton Lake? I had heard that there wasn't anywhere in IL that you could legally hang, so pretty much gave up hope.

    I have a Hennessy that I used during our week long trip to the BWCA and haven't had the opportunity to use it since then. I would LOVE to change that if your experience suggests its no big deal to use it in IL parks!

    1. I just looked and find that a hammock is a shelter as defined by 17 Ill. Admin. Code Sec. 130.40 (d) A "Camp Shelter" is the portable equipment used by the single family or group for bedding and housing.

      I find no restriction on hanging except the number of "camps" allowed at any site and the requirements for situating "camps" in designated campsite campsites.

      You can check out the Admin Code from a link in the ILDNR Parks & Recreation page.
      Look on the right side near the bottom.

  2. Tau - Yes, I hung my hammock at Clinton Lake at a regular campsite. I have also hung at Jim Edgar SP and at Moraine View SRA. I have never had any difficulty from any ranger or campground host. I am not aware of any rule or regulation prohibiting hanging in IL SPs.
    I don't think I'll ever have a reasonable opportunity to through hike the AT. But i do want to do sections over the next several years.
    Take a look at the HF Hangouts section and in the midwest pages you will find a hang in Rockford on Feb 23. Come on up!

  3. I saw the thread about the upcoming hang, and it was your response there that led me to your blog. :) Unfortunately, I have no cold weather gear that would allow me to join this time around. We camped in the BWCA in June and didn't need an underquilt, and its just not in the budget for right now. (we have one kid in college and another in private school)

    As I said, however, your blog has sincerely inspired me and I think we will be adding to our hanging arsenal a little here and a little there so that we can participate in the more seasonal hangs in the future.

  4. Hi, Jim and Tau. Steve here, Champaign, and I actually called the campground at Mascoutin Clinton Lake in 2012 and asked about hammocking and was told that it's strictly forbidden at Clinton Lake designated campsites. I probably shouldn't have called. lol What I can say is, I'm all geared up with Warbonnet stuff and was thinking my only opportunity at Clinton, anyhow, was to stealth camp. Any thoughts, Jim? Perhaps we (you, I, Tau and anyone else) should set up a weekend to hang at Clinton and see how she flies. Your blog is outstanding, BTW. I found it tonight. Thanks

  5. PS Jim. I also live in Geneva/St Charles, IL, and know Naperville quite well. Any parks in western Chicagoland that permit hammocking? Thanks.

    1. coolkayaker1 - Sounds good, let me know a few weekends you can do it.
      As for Clinton Lake, if you hike the trail I did (North Fork Trail, you could easily stealth camp 3-4 miles in. Of course, no campfire and you must cook on a stove.
      I hammocked at Clinton Lake without any problem. I didn't ask, I just put my $ in the envelope and camped the night away. Now, I was in late and out early so I never actually saw any park personnel.

      I don't know of any parks or forest preserves that allow hammock camping or backwoods camping. Blackwell Woods is pretty big and could support a stealth hang. But I think the state parks are better.

      My wife won't camp either and currently cannot day hike due to a torn ligament in her foot.