A full range of recreation opportunities complement the expansive shoreline of Illinois Beach State Park. Interested in jogging and bicycling? The trails are waiting! Or, is physical fitness your current pursuit? Whether you're an active outdoor enthusiast or just interested in a quiet walk along some of the Midwest's most scenic beaches, this is the place for you! Stretching leisurely for six and a half miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois, Illinois Beach State Park encompasses the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state. Illinois Beach is a unique and captivating natural resource for all to enjoy. It was created by the titanic forces of glacial advance and retreat and the steady winds that breathed across expansive Lake Michigan. The park has dunes and swales with sprawling marshes, forests of oak and vast arrays of animal life and vegetation. The 4,160-acre park, consisting of two separate areas, offers ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and just appreciating nature. More than 650 species of plants have been recorded in the dunes area alone, including dozens of types of colorful wildflowers. Prickly pear cactus thrives in large colonies in the dry areas, and the wet prairies are carpeted with a wide variety of grasses and sedges. Large expanses of marsh in the swales support dense stands of cattail, bluejoint grass, prairie cordgrass, reed grass, big bluestem and sedges. The sandy ridges are crowned by black oak forests with an open, savanna-like appearance, and several kinds of fragrant pines, introduced here a century ago, also prosper in the southern area. Just north of these pines is the Dead River which actually is a stream that is blocked by sandbars much of the year forming an elongated pond. When the water finally rises high enough, it breaks through the sandbar and drains the surrounding marshes. The abundance of aquatic plants and fish flourishing in this changing environment belie its name.
Sensational, Beautiful Lake County at it's absolute best. Like the single track path along the dead river,South of the park's trail bend, and out to Lake Michigan!
( Great old park now in "dis-repair" due to the State's budget crisis. Don't need the stupid DNR's annual "burns" which kill all the small wildlife and baby oak trees
We hiked this trail on the only sunny day in a week of floods and more rain in IL. The trail was the highlight of our stay at IL Beach State Park Resort - to which I'd give only 2 stars. Here's what we enjoyed:
ON OUR MORNING HIKE
Sounds of tree frogs simmering,
Grunting geese are glimmering.
KEV in, song of chickadee
AB by too, we all agree.
Breezes sigh through dead oak leaves;
Pussy willows bas-reliefs.
River flows like crackled glass;
Redwings call from prairie grass.
Kildeer court in strip-ed view;
Muskrat skims the river slough.
Kinglets flash their ruby crown
For the female looking down.
White tail deer beside the trail,
Harvesting the dunes and swale.
All these gifts, a sunny day
Hiking offers such display!
I hiked this trail in light rain with a bit of hail. It is an easy, lovely hike through mixed habitat. You follow the Dead River for the first half of the hike. There are great views on this leg. At the midway point you can split onto the Dunes Trail northbound or head out to the coast of Lake Michigan eastbound , or continue on the Dead River Loop westbound which will bring you back to the parking lot. There is a lot of downed timber due to recent storm activity and the old growth trees are perfect for woodpeckers, owls, and other cavity nesters.