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Kickapoo State Park — A hidden gem in eastern Illinois

The state of Illinois supports approximately 125 state parks, natural areas, fish and wildlife areas and memorials within its boundaries. Many are located on or near a river or on impounded lakes and reservoirs in the five regions of the state. Note that Illinois has no natural lakes, but has several large impoundments.

Kickapoo State Park has the distinction of being the first state park in the United States to be constructed on land reclaimed from former strip mines. Today, the park has a lovely, multicolored, green patterned finery following days and nights of rain. The afternoon sunshine highlights the hardwood forest and is reflected in the Middle Fork Vermilion River that bisects the park and flows just 100 feet from my campsite.

Along the river are more than eight lakes and ponds. Many are stocked with fish and fishing is encouraged. Campsites are spacious, graveled and allow ample room for picnic tables, grills and family gatherings. Shower rooms are within easy walking distance and are clean and bright. Handicapped campsites are reserved near the restrooms.

Trees, shrubs, grass and wildlife are abundant. Two deer strolled across the road as I drove into the campground. Camping sites offer only 30-amp electric, but freshwater faucets and dump station are nearby.

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Café and small store are on a lake near the park entrance. Primitive campsites are abundant for tent camping and small RVs. Mountain bike trails measure 6.5 miles in length, while other hiking trails and nature trails total more than 10 miles. There are 11 day use areas, a child’s playground, boat and canoe launch. Canoe and kayak rental and tours on the river are also available. The facilities and amenities are quite modern and clean. Streets are well paved, grasses is mowed, and the trees are trimmed.

Kickapoo State Park is approximately 3.5 miles from Interstate 74 at the Oakwood exit. Danville, Ill., is about 2 miles east, and Indiana is just 10 miles east. Champaign/Urbana are on I-74 approximately 25 miles west.

Danville offers several key historical sites and museums. The Abraham Lincoln Heritage Trail extends into Danville where Lincoln maintained important friendships. Summer and winter sports and activities are available as professional hockey and semi-professional baseball compete with community college basketball and baseball during the season.

Danville theater groups are active and several famous actors began their careers on stage in the city. Dick and Jerry Van Dyke, Gene Hackman and Donald O’Connor came from Danville as did NASA astronaut Joe Tanner. Other well-known people have lived here and more than 22 major league baseball players had played with the Danville Dans.

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Numerous day trips are easily made from this pleasant state park. Camping fees are $20 per day for electric hookups. Senior residents of Illinois received a discount.

Although the traffic traveling on I-74 can be faintly heard in the distance, the park is highly recommended for its location and access to many area events. Events on the University of Illinois campus and throughout the central part of the states of Illinois and Indiana are within easy driving distance.

About Dr. Bob Gorden

Dr. Bob Gorden is an RVer, hiker and writer. He has a PhD in microbial ecology from the University of Georgia in Athens. He is a retired research scientist from the University of Illinois Natural History Survey. He has owned and operated more than 55 RVs of various types, and has visited every state, except Hawaii, in his RV. He also traveled by RV in New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. He currently owns and travels in a 1978 GMC 26-foot Class A and 2013 Thor ACE 30.1 Class A motorhome. He has a compelling desire to be “On the Road Again!”

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