The park borders three natural lakes - Grass, Marie and Nippersink - and the Fox River that connects the other seven lakes (Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead) that make up the Chain. In addition, the park contains a 44-acre lake within its boundaries. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline, Chain O'Lakes State Park is the heart of a water wonderland.
Chain O'Lakes State Park, located in northeast Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties, became a state park in 1945 when the State of Illinois made an initial purchase of 840 acres. In the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp became the Chain O'Lakes Conservation Area, and was incorporated into the state park in 1957.
The park features seven picnic areas and four trail systems. The Nature's Way hiking trail starts at Oak Grove Picnic Area and is 2 1/4 miles in length. The Pike Marsh North Picnic Area has an accessible trail that a quarter-mile long. The park also contains 8 miles of equestrian trail and a 6 miles biking/hiking trail.
An archery range for target practice is located on Rt. 173 West of the Fox River for target practice. The range and trail are open May 16 until the beginning of the hunting season (closing date varies). Hours are 8 a.m. – sunset.
A user fee issued by the Fox Waterway Agency is required for all boats using the Chain O’Lakes. Call 847-587-8540 for agency regulations. There is no charge to launch boats at the park, nor is there any horsepower limitation on boats using any of the Chain O' Lakes. Only electric trolling motors only are allowed on Turner Lake, a 44-acre lake inside the park. All watercraft must comply with State of Illinois Watercraft rules and regulations.
No possession or consumption of alcohol on any site in the campground.
No pets or tents allowed at cabins 16, 17 or 18 in Honeysuckle Hollow.
Chain O’Lakes has Class A-Premium areas (Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den) with a total of 151 sites. Sites are for $25 per night, except on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day weekends when the fee is $35 per night. Three Class B-Premium camp areas (Turner Lake South, Prairie View and Mud Lake East) have a total of 87 sites for $12 each per night. One youth group camp area (Mud Lake West) will accommodate 150 youths with a fee of $2 per person (minimum $20 per night). Maximum stay at campsites is 14 nights in a 30 day period. A responsible adult (18 years of age or older) acquiring a permit must have a camp shelter and set up at the time of registration. All campers must have a permit (receipt for payment). Gathering of firewood from the park is strictly prohibited. Alcohol is prohibited in the campgrounds.
Three cabins, consisting of two bunk beds and a double bed, can be rented for $50 per night (which includes a $5 non-refundable reservation fee). Equipment provided: electric, table and six chairs, picnic table, cooking/fire grill, dust pan, broom and fire extinguisher. No restroom facilities are provided in cabin. Dogs and other pets are not allowed at cabin site. Reservations are recommended.
Among the popular fish available to anglers in the Chain O' Lakes are bluegill, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, muskie, northern pike, bullhead, catfish and yellow and white bass. Due to the marshy nature of much of the park's shoreline, most fishing takes place from boats or fishing piers.
Equestrian Services are available and operate on a seasonal basis. For additional information call 815-710-7210.
Dove, waterfowl, archery deer and permit pheasant hunting are available at the park.
Chain O’Lakes State Park features seven picnic areas with tables, water, grills and toilets. Oak Grove, Maple Grove and Oak Point have playground equipment. Oak Point, Deer Path, Oak Grove and Catfish Cove have picnic shelters. Reservations and a $25 fee are required for shelters. Groups of 25 or more must secure advanced written permission for picnics from the Park Office.
Chain O'Lakes has four trail systems. The Nature's Way hiking trail starts at Oak Grove Picnic Area and is 2 ¼ miles in length. The Pike Marsh North Picnic Area has an accessible trail that is ¼ mile long. The park also contains an equestrian trail with three loops and a total length of 8 miles. Visitors can bring in their own horses for enjoyment on the trail. A parking lot for horse trailers with access to the equestrian trails is located near the park entrance. A biking/hiking trail, 6 miles in length, can be accessed at any picnic area between the concession stand and the park office. All trails can be used by cross-country skiers.
Ice fishing is a popular activity when the temperature drops and the ice thickens. Trails, including the horse trails, can be used for cross-country skiing; however, the trails are not groomed. A sledding hill is located near the park office.