July had been a long, hot month for us. We started the month with a trip to southern Missouri to visit some family, which turned out to be a fabulous getaway but very hot. We had not been on any camping adventures since Memorial Day weekend in early June, so we decided to plan a quick weekend getaway close to home. We decided on Weldon Springs State Recreational Area near Clinton, Illinois. This little campground is a gem – in need of some repairs, but that is par for the course in Illinois.
We made our visit to the park on July 28th and 29th. Turns out it was the best weekend of the month for weather – daytime high on Friday was 80 and Saturday it only got up to 78 degrees.
Summary of the park features
Weldon Springs SRA has quite a lot to offer for such a relatively small park. The lake is a nice size for smaller boats or kayaks/canoes. You can paddle the entire lake and not be overly exerted, unless of course it is windy. Fishing is reportedly very good according to some online posts. I did some fishing for bass and had only two small strikes on topwater early in the morning but did not boat any fish. There is a lot of cover for bass, so I would say this lake has some nice fish, I just didn’t have much luck.
This park has several very nice trails. See map below that I am borrowing from the IDNR webpage. This park has a trail for everyone – varied surfaces, longer or shorter trails depending on effort desired, some relatively flat, and some with moderate elevation change with varying surfaces. There is a very decent gravel/dirt trail around the lake that is almost exactly 2 miles around that I ran. Just be careful if you are running the trail around the lake as there are some stairs in terrible disrepair and could be very dangerous.
Several picnic areas are available in the park, and all appeared to be fairly well taken care of. There were a couple locations where the grass had been allowed to grow a little out of control; but again, that is not a result of poor park management, that is an Illinois problem. Near the picnic areas on the East side of the park is an Amphitheater which I did not visit, so I cannot offer any advice on its contribution to the park. Lookout Point Picnic Area is well worth a stop to look around – very lovely Midwest scenery for late summer.
Weldon Springs SRA is most noted for the beautiful Veteran’s Memorial that is in the park. A very well maintained tribute to our Service Men and Women, this is worth a visit even if this is the only reason you come to Weldon Springs SRA.
Camping information and tips
This is a smaller campground in almost all respects. Longer trailers and Class A RVs might have some challenges using this park. Roads inside of the campground area are relatively narrow and sites were closer together in the main loop – we stayed on the end of a cul-de-sac loop in site 66. That loop was even slightly challenging for my 23 foot trailer with ½ ton pickup to navigate without going onto the grass. There are some very nice, full-shade, pull through sites just inside and to the North of the Host site.
The park offers several tent/primitive sites near the main campground and the park also offers backpack camping permits. This sounds incredibly interesting but I was not able to take the time to hike in to check those locations.
The camp area has all the typical amenities of your standard state park. There are a few 50 amp sites in the main camping area for you bigger travelers, but again, it might be a challenge getting in and out of these sites. Shower house is satisfactory.
Pros and Cons
- For RV campers, water for filling tanks was challenging. There was a hydrant near the shower house but water pressure was rather poor and took me quite a while to get my 30 gallons. Minor drawback since I don’t travel with water.
- The sewer dump station is located very near the camping area, which is likely due to the age of the park. Avoid staying anywhere near the dump station – you won’t be very happy. See the map I am providing of the park – you can see the Dump Station on the IDNR pdf map I am providing but you cannot tell that it is located with such close proximity to the camping sites.
WeldonSpringsSiteMap Illinois Department of Natural Resources Map
- Prior to heading to the park I had read some reviews that provided some scathing reports of the park in terrible disrepair. Clearly those people are not as familiar with Illinois’ financial issues that have far reaching impact – parks and recreation namely. The trailer and RV slips are in somewhat poor condition; not the worst I have seen in Illinois. We chose a site that had just had some gravel spread on the slip – it clearly was not a professional job, and done rather quickly. However, it did offer a better surface to park the trailer on. You should not let poor reviews from people worried only about level parking spots influence your decision to visit this lovely little park.
- The hosts were all very accommodating and made sure I knew where main park attractions were located, and that our site had immediate access to the lake trail right at the back of our camper.
- The campground was very quiet for a weekend. No loud parties, no boat noise at 6am, and due to the relative small size of the park, there was very little traffic in or out of the park.
- We saw several deer during the weekend – always a hit for my Bambi loving wife. We even had a late night visitor that helped himself to some of our garbage, so make sure to secure your trash cans/containers.
All-in-all Weldon Springs SRA is a great little spot for the camper looking for something off the beaten path. There is something for everyone at this park and I highly recommend a visit. The park is just a short ten or fifteen minute drive into Clinton, Illinois where you can find some shopping items, groceries, chain restaurants, and vehicle service if needed. You will have a great experience here if your expectations are not too high – keep in mind that the general condition of parks in Illinois is marginal due to the financial issues of the state. The parks have little control over this and are doing their very best to maintain adequate recreation for visitors and users of the parks.
Visit Weldon Springs SRA – it is truly a Midwest gem!