Beaver Dam is a small state park in west-central Illinois. Located in a more rural area, this state park is less well known but worth exploring. Situated in an oak/hickory woodland, Beaver Dam State Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities including fishing, picnicking, hiking, and both tent and trailer camping. There is also a restaurant and store open daily with paddle boat and canoe rentals available.
Beavers first built several dams along a stream in the valley here during the 1700s. Early settlers arrived to find a shallow lake left behind from the industrious beaver’s creations. They called this shallow lake “Dry Beaver Lake” as it often went dry in summer. In 1890, several local businessman from nearby Carlinville formed the Beaver Lake Dam Club. They built an earthen dam at each end to raise the lake level. In 1901, a hotel and resort was developed at the lake and operated until the 1930s. When the property went up for sale in the late 1940s, a local state representative encouraged the purchase of the site by the state and it was developed into a state park. Improvements continued through the years including rebuilding the dams and raising the water level further.
The trails aren’t really named or always marked, but they fairly easy to follow and we found them to be in good condition. We did two loops, one around the lake and one around the marsh. Additional trails branch off to loop through the campground areas or up the hill to the pavilions .
- Distance: 1.75 mile loop
- Difficulty: 2/5 Mostly flat. Some roots and minor muddy sections. Goose droppings were heavy along east dam.
- Scenic Value: 3/5. Nice views of the lake most of the way. Would be especially scenic in fall.
The hike starts near the west dam. You can go either direction but we decided to start near the restaurant and cross the west dam to hike clockwise. The path crosses a small wooden bridge and an overlook platform of the lake.
The path continues to follow along the lake’s edge. Various wildflowers can be found throughout the spring and summer season. The trail is mostly shaded which makes it more bearable in summer.
There are quite a few docks located off the trail. You might find people fishing off them. Using caution with kids on the docks.
When the trail reaches the east dam, another trail branches off to the left. This heads up to the pavilions and playgrounds. Continue right to cross the east dam. When we were there, the east dam was covered in goose droppings. We didn’t have a problem with this anywhere else along the trail. It required some careful stepping to make it across, especially with kids!
The trail was better once it reentered the woods. The woods were thicker here and more scenic. There were several small bridges and more docks.
We finished the loop right behind the restaurant. After stopping to have a nice lunch, we crossed the parking lot and road in front of the restaurant to find the trail around the marsh.
- Distance: 1 mile loop
- Difficulty: 2/5 Mostly flat and easy. One small water crossing
- Scenic Value: 4/5. A few fun boardwalks and a marsh overlook.
The trail starts off flat and wide through the woods and over a long boardwalk.
There is a small stream draining into the marsh that requires some tricky footing to cross. There are some stepping stones.
The path continues through the woods around the marsh. A trail branches off to the left uphill. Stay straight on the main trail and you will soon reach the overlook platform.
Keep an eye out when crossing the last boardwalk for any creatures in the water.
Picnic Sites & Playground
If you need a spot for a picnic lunch, drive the main park road up the hill and keep right. There are several picnic tables and pavilions at the top of the hill. Vault toilets are scattered throughout the area. There is also a small playground for the kids.
Additional Things to Know:
- The park is located at 14548 Beaver Dam Lane Plainview IL 62685
- A park map can be found here and a brochure here.
- Restrooms are located next to the store and restaurant. Vault toilets are located throughout the park.
- You can find the Facebook page for the restaurant and concessions here for up to date hours and menus.