Horseshoe Lake State Park is located on
Highway 111 in southern Madison County, Illinois, and is situated on a low flood
plain called the American Bottom which follows the Mississippi River down
to the Kentucky border. Rivers never follow the same path over extended
periods of time and oxbow lakes are formed by the isolated sections created
when rivers change direction and cut new channels. Horseshoe Lake was
formed in this manner centuries ago and is one of two large oxbow lakes that can be found in Southern
Illinois. Only about 10 minutes away from downtown St. Louis, the park
offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities on 2,960 acres.
Human habitation in the area dates back as far as
8,000 B.C. during the Archaic Period. Artifacts have also been found which
are from the Woodland Period of 1000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D. during which
Horseshoe lake provided an excellent source of fish, game, waterfowl, and
wild vegetables. During the Mississippian Period, the first real civilization
in North America developed at nearby Cahokia. Cahokia was the center of
commerce, social and political power for the region and had a population of
30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. Cahokia was famous for its elaborate burial
and tribal rituals that culminated in the building of giant earthen mounds.
The remains of an earthen platform mound built by this civilization can be
found on Walker Island.
The main feature of the park is its 1800-plus acre
oxbow lake. The western portion of the lake is considered to be the best area to
find crappie. Anglers looking for bass should stick to north and south
ends. The lake’s three foot depth which makes it ideal for bluegill and
channel catfish can also be found. Boat fishing is allowed except
during waterfowl season and a 50-horsepower limit exists for all
watercraft. The best fishing place is said to be right off the causeway
leading to Walker Island. An Illinois
fishing license is required.
The Horseshoe Lake State Park is an excellent place for bird
watching. It has been said that virtually all species of birds that have
been spotted in the state have been seen at one time or another at the
Park. In July and August the southern portion of the lake is drained and
spread with millet by plane. The resulting mudflats attract many snowy
egrets and blue herons in search of clams and snails. A four mile self
guided nature trail on Walker Island has 5 watch areas for birding at the
different habitats that can be found on the island.
Horseshoe Lake State Park is listed on the
National Audubon Society's Great
River Birding Trail. They report that the Park is one of the most well
known places to see a diversity of herons and egrets. Snowy Egrets and Little
Blue Herons occur in large numbers , especially in July and August. Also watch
for Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons. This is an excellent spot to
see Eurasian Tree Sparrows as well. Late July and early to mid-August can be
good for shore birds on the south pool at the causeway when water is pumped out
of the pool to encourage moist plant germination. During the fall migration,
this is a great place for waterfowl and shore birds, including loons, grebes,
and cormorants. In winter, watch for a variety of gulls.
The park's campsite is located on Walker Island in
the middle of Horseshoe Lake accommodates 48 tent or trailers. A nature
trail and an historic Native American mound are all located near the campsite.
Amenities at this campsite include a sanitary dump station, pit toilets, and
water hydrants that are all conveniently located. All campers must secure a
permit from the park ranger. Reservations are accepted only for the group
camping areas, all other camping is on a first-come first-served basis. Five shelters are provided for group picnics while
small areas are provided for other outings throughout the park. A
playground is located in the main campground and is near three of the
shelters. Groups of 25 or more
are welcome but are required to register in advance with the Park Office
to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
A number of public duck blinds are located on the
lake to accommodate hunters during the waterfowl season. Dove hunting is
allowed is on the peninsula off Bend Road during
September. Controlled pheasant hunting is available. Check with the Park
Office for details and further regulations.
In addition to the advantages found by
being so close to downtown St. Louis, a wide variety of attractions are
available to those visiting Horseshoe Lake State Park including the
of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway, Lewis
and Clark Trail Site #1, and the
Cahokia Mounds Interpretive
Lake State Park
Open Daily: Closed
indefinitely due to the State of Illinois' budget impasse.
There is no charge to visit Horseshoe Lake State
Directions: Horseshoe Lake State Park is located on IL-111 between
I-55/70 and I-270.
N 38 41.934
W 90 04.048
more about the Granite City
and Collinsville areas.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources - official site of
Horseshoe Lake State Park