Tag Archives: picnicking

Outdoor Recreation

A view from a trail at Mississippi Palisades State Park


Ayers Sand Prairie Nature Preserve
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge map-button
Airport Rd & Spring Lake Road
Savanna, Illinois 61074

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Ayers Sand Prairie is a relatively large preserve containing dry sand prairie, sand dune and blowout communities typical of the Mississippi River Section of the Illinois and Mississippi River Sand Areas Natural Division. An inventory of the plants revealed 39 species of grasses and sedges, 16 species of woody plants and 96 forbs. The dominant herbaceous species are little bluestem, June grass and hairy gramma grass. Carolina anemone, sandcress, puccoon and sand primrose are typical sand prairie species. Black oak and cottonwood occur in the blowouts along with scattered clones of aromatic sumac. Resident mammals include deer, skunk, rabbit, mole, shrew and western harvest mice. Summer resident birds occurring here include upland sandpiper, loggerhead shrike, western meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow and dickcissel. A number of the characteristic reptiles found in sand prairies occur at Ayers Sand Prairie.

map-button French Bluff Illinois State Recreational Nature Area
2911 Scenic Bluff Road
Thomson, Illinois 61285

French bluff is characterized by steep hillsides, ridge tops, and terrace benches that are almost entirely covered by forest. Located east of Thomson, IL and just north of Argo Fay Road, this large contiguous forest tract is the southern most forest area in the Driftless Area. You can hike on unmarked trails through the site. An excellent birding site for interior forest birds as well as a good site to view spring wildflowers. Hiking, hunting, and birding.

map-buttonFrog Pond
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
Doty Road & Route 84
Savanna, Illinois 61074

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Frog Pond is a small recreational area situated along Plum River. Located just south of Savanna, IL and immediately off Route 84, one of its big features is a wheel chair accessible fishing platform. Not only good for fishing, but an excellent place to view floodplain forest birds during spring and fall migration. Birding, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking.

map-buttonGreat River Trail

Great River Trail Map PDF

The Great River Trail recreational path extends 62 miles from Savanna, through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, to the Quad Cities and  provides fantastic biking, hiking, running, and walking opportunities.

map-buttonIngersoll Wetlands Learning Center
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
7071 Riverview Road
Thomson, Illinois 61285

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Fifty-five thousand acres with biking, birding, boat launches, canoeing, fishing, gift shop, hiking, hunting, picnicking, and wildlife observation.

map-buttonLost Mound Unit
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
3700 Army Depot Road
Savanna, Illinois 61074

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Lost Mound is a 7,000-acre tract on the Mississippi River located on an old munitions testing army base that closed in 2000. Unique features of this site include sand prairie remnants, forests, backwater wetlands, old military buildings, Indian burial mounds and the largest sand dune in Illinois. Biking, birding, hiking, Prickly Pear and Black Oak Dune scenic overlook area.

map-buttonMarquette Park
Wayne King Drive & Randolph Street
Savanna, Illinois 61074

Seven acre park on the Mississippi River, boat launches, canoeing, fishing, picnicking, restrooms, & parking.

map-buttonMississippi Palisades State Park
16327A Route 84
Savanna, Illinois 61074

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As its name suggests, this 2,400-acre park sits on lofty steep bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, with river access below. The park offers beautiful scenery, biking, birding, boat launches, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, scenic overlooks, and seasonal cross-country skiing.

Monument Park
Main Street
Savanna, Illinois 61074

This small area describing early settlement in Savanna hosts the monument commemorating the Aaron Pierce family, the first settlers of Savanna.

map-buttonOld Mill Park
9621 US Highway 52
Savanna, Illinois 61074

Old Mill Park is 85 acres located on the northeast side of town featuring ball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball court, playground equipment, concession stand, two restroom buildings (one newly built accessible), and shelter houses. There is also a nature trail, walking trial, and plenty of green space for relaxing and picnicking. Open from April 15 through October 31. It is open to walk-in traffic after October 31 during the daylight hours. Persons who wish to walk or ‘play’ in the park may park at the front entrance near the Park Superintendent’s home.

map-buttonPoint Rock Park
182 South Mill Street
Mount Carroll, Illinois 61053

Point Rock is a 25 acre city park that stretches along the banks of the Waukarusa River. One of the walking trails leads to the Oak Hill Cemetery, which has graves dating back to the Revolutionary War. Biking,  fishing, frisbee golf course, hiking, parking, restrooms.

map-buttonPortland Skate Park
1500 Portland Avenue
Savanna, Illinois 61074

Professional skate park. Open to all skaters, dawn to dusk daily. Helmets are mandatory.

map-buttonSpring Lake
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge 
9496 Route 84
Thomson, Illinois 61285

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This site provides scenic views of both Spring Lake as well as the Mississippi River. Most notable is the 8.7 mile gravel path that runs along the edges of Spring Lake with two observation decks. Biking, birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking.

map-buttonU.S. Army Corps of Engineers Big Slough Recreational Area
5836 Riverview Road
Thomson, Illinois 61285

Mississippi River boat launching, canoe access, fishing, restrooms, and parking.

map-buttonU.S. Army Corps of Engineers Thomson Causeway Recreation Area
Lewis Avenue and Main Street
Thomson, Illinois 61285

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At 64 acres, Thomson Causeway is the largest Army Corps of Engineers recreation area on the Mississippi River. Located at a wide spot on the river, it offers unobstructed views of the more than three mile wide main channel and of Potters Marsh. On the Great River Trail. Biking, birding, boat launches, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking.


Whether you're a pro or a novice, play 18 holes or a round of mini golf, Carroll County has several beautiful courses to choose from.
Bird Watching
Carroll County hosts more than 190 species of birds. Bald Eagles and Snowy Owls are just 2 examples.
Carroll County boosts some of the most scenic biking trails around.
Boating, canoeing, and kayaking are popular recreational activities in Illinois and Carroll County is no exception! Extensive waterway systems and exciting boating opportunities can be found here.
Hiking is a great way to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors. Don't miss the beautiful scenery at Palisades Park!
Fishing and Hunting
If you enjoy fishing or hunting, you can find plenty of opportunities to to do either...or both!

The communities of Carroll County feature a wide variety of stimulating recreational activities. Whether you enjoy bicycling, bird watching, boating, camping, fishing, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, motorsports, or swimming, Carroll County has what you need for an Illinois weekend getaway vacation. So bring your bike, binoculars, boat, camping gear, fishing pole, golf clubs, or sense of adventure, and cruise on into Carroll County to enjoy the pleasant things in life!

Golfing in Carroll County


Boating in Carroll County


Swimming in Carroll County


Bicycling in Carroll County


Motorsports in Carroll County


Hunting and Fishing in Carroll County

Fishing and Hunting

Bird Watching in Carroll County

Bird Watching

Hiking in Carroll County


And that’s just for starters…

Here is a more extensive list of things to see and do in Carroll County.

Outdoor Activities

Indoor Activities

Carroll County’s Official Tourism Information Website!

Upcoming Events

Timberfest (Mayfest)

The original Mayfest in Mt. Carroll for Memorial Day Weekend will be joining forces with Timber Lake to bring you Timberfest.
Watch for more details coming soon.


Timber Lake Playhouse Announces May Shows and Events

Timber Lake Playhouse (TLP), the premier professional summer theatre of northwest Illinois, is busily preparing for the May 8 opening of the season.

TLP’s Magic Owl Children’s Theatre production of Junie B. Jones, The Musical is based on the book series by Barbara Park.

The TLP Jukebox Series opens on May 11 with Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.  From the opening chords of vintage country to rockabilly, rock n’ roll, searing ballads and gentle songs of love and deep faith,

On Friday, May 25, TLP opens their Concert Series with Reba … and Friends featuring Nashville recording artist, Brooke Byam.  Join Brooke and friends for an evening of music and fun onstage at TLP.


TLP Dinner with Broadway Star Andrea McArdle
featuring Broadway’s Andrea McArdle
Friday, June 1st, 5:30 pm
Lake Carroll Clubhouse

Want to get up close with a Broadway star?!  Join us on Friday night, June 1, for a private and intimate dining experience under the stars on the patio of the Lake Carroll Clubhouse with Broadway’s Andrea McArdle, the original “Annie”, and the staff and board of Timber Lake Playhouse.  Tickets for this dining event are $75. Call for reservations – 815-244-2035

TLP Broadway Concert featuring Andrea McArdle
Saturday, June 2nd – 7pm
Timber Lake Playhouse
To add to your Broadway experience join us Saturday night, June 2nd, at the Timber Lake Playhouse to kickoff TLP’s First Annual Broadway Concert with the Stars starring Broadway’s original Annie, Ms. Andrea McArdle. Concert starts at 7pm and tickets are $50.00. Call 815-244-2035 for ticket information.

Best known for originating the title role in the Broadway musical Annie, Ms. McArdle continues to thrill audiences on stages the world over.  Andrea brings her award-winning vocal talents to Timber Lake Playhouse for a one-night only concert experience not to be missed!

Don’t miss all the other exciting events at Timber Lake this summer.  For more information, visit the TLP website at www.timberlakeplayhouse.org or call the Box Office at (815) 244-2035.  Box Office hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 – 3:00.

Carroll County Offers Something for Everyone

Looking for a reason to get in the car and enjoy a splendid day in the country? Look no further than Carroll County, Illinois. With so much to see, experience, and do, there’s no better reason, or season, to discover the hidden treasures and pleasures of this region than now! Come spend a day, a weekend, or a week. We are sure you will enjoy your stay.

Nestled among the rolling hills and lush forests of beautiful northwest Illinois, Carroll County is a world away from your demanding workweek. The county encompasses four hundred sixty-six square miles of friendly smiles, genuine outdoor adventure, and charming villages that punctuate a landscape nourished by the mighty Mississippi River. Scenic byways, rich history, and outstanding special events make Carroll County the preferred destination for many visitors each year.

Courtesy of the Carroll County Hotel Motel Tax Board

Discover the flora and fauna along many beautiful nature walk paths

Our local historic villages boast outstanding shops offering antiques or artisan works, a professional summer stock theatre, roadside stands featuring vine-fresh melons, homegrown produce, and delectable morel mushrooms. Visitors revel in a schedule of special events throughout the year, ranging from Mount Carroll’s Mayfest, Milledgeville’s June Days, and Savanna’s Haunted Forest Festival to Lanark’s Old Settler’s Days and Chadwick’s Hometown Christmas.

Whether you desire a family outing, a great escape, or a romantic getaway, Carroll County offers unique opportunities that are certain to fulfill those needs. Come, visit Carroll County and discover our special place in the pines!

Do Everything or Nothing at All

Carroll County oozes history, mystery, and natural beauty. Mile after magnificent mile, the rolling plains, towering woodlands, charming small towns, wonderful attractions, and expansive vistas will have you returning to visit season after season.lodging-carroll-county-illinois-timber-lake-cabins

Outdoor Recreation

If the great outdoors are calling your name, then Carroll County has you covered. Here you’ll discover a region overflowing with recreational outdoor activities. Carroll County is filled with opportunities for wildlife viewing, camping, hiking, biking, boating, hunting, fishing, shopping, antiquing, and exploring our nation’s rich history, or just sitting under an old shade tree to devour a good book.

From local parks and wildlife reserves to exceptional golf courses, from miles of beautiful boating to great fishing on the “Mighty Mississippi”, you’ll find it here in Carroll County. From catfish and muskie to trout, local streams, rivers, and lakes provide anglers with the perfect opportunity for their next big fish story.

The real beauty of Carroll County is found in simple natural wonders. Such pleasures give pause from the hectic pace of modern life. The elegance of a falling autumn leaf, the majesty of a foraging deer, or the alluring warmth of a crackling fire are irresistible invitations that draw visitors to this special place.

Barn Quilt Trail
One of Many Along the Barn Quilt TourBarn quilts enhance the beauty of the countryside and are enjoyed by those who pass by. Carroll County is very fortunate to have many “Barn Quilts” already in existence throughout its countryside. We have compiled a list of our local barn quilts and  a map.

We certainly would like to see “Barn Quilt Fever” continue to grow in Carroll County. Our end goal, is to promote agri-tourism and attract visitors to our rural community.

History & Culture

History lovers find a new home in Carroll County. Here a treasure trove of museums, monuments, and historical sites capture the imagination.

Explore the stone arch bridge where Abraham Lincoln camped as a private during the Black Hawk War or discover the tragic tale of an historic steamboat, “The Sultana”.


Retail therapy enthusiasts applaud the various shopping opportunities that abound in Carroll County. Local shops offer everything from eclectic hand-crafted gifts and quaint artisan works to antique treasures and coveted collectibles. In Carroll County, you’ll always be greeted by friendly shopkeepers who still understand the art of authentic small-town hospitality.

Whether you’re seeking a day trip, a weekend getaway or a week-long adventure, discover excellent restaurants and diverse lodging choices that range from primitive campsites or rustic cabins to pampering B&Bs, comfortable country inns, and award-winning hotels. With gentle rolling hills and lush countryside, Carroll County is a great escape from the concrete and asphalt of a big city. All this and more is waiting for you a trifling 90 minutes from the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area. Come for a visit and experience a weekend getaway the way it used to be!