What’s with a Round Barn?
A round barn – who ever heard of such a thing? Turns out round barns were actually quite popular between 1880 and the early 1900s. Round barns were built in various places, but what most people do not know is that they were more popular in the Midwest.
It was thought at the time that the round barn would improve efficiency – requiring less material to build, stronger and able to withstand high winds of the Midwest, and provided for easier operations and allowing for more efficient movement by laborers.
In Illinois, a large influence on the round barn design was the University of Illinois. Regular publications and promotion of the design by the Agricultural Experiment Station, along with the construction of several round barns in the area, all contributed to a rise of the popularity of the round barn.
One such barn is located in Johns-Sauk Trail State Recreational Area in Kewanee, Illinois. The Ryan Round Barn is located here and is one of the largest round barns in the U.S. The Ryan Round Barn is unique in part due to its size and well-maintained structure, however, the most impressive part of the barn is the sixteen-foot wide silo inside the structure – cutting edge design for its time. The Ryan Round Barn is a must see if you find yourself in Henry County, Illinois.
Johnson – Sauk Trail State Recreational Area
We have visited this park numerous times over the years and it still remains high on our list of favorite parks.
Located about 5 miles north of Kewanee, Illinois, Johnson – Sauk Trail State Recreational Area is an ideal location to take in hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking, wildlife, and hunting in certain parts of the park.
As mentioned above, the Ryan Round Barn is located just inside the park and is one of the main attractions of the park. However, there is something for everyone at Johnson – Sauk SRA.
Known for some of the best camping in the area, Johnson – Sauk SRA is a gem for the camper; tent and RV alike.
Pine trees in the north end of the camping area is a lovely switch from the typical hardwood trees native to Illinois. Just keep in mind that if you are RV camping, the pine trees produce some pretty sticky sap that might be unpleasant to clean off your rig.
The southern loop of the camping area boasts a large area for the RVer with a variety of good shade, full shade, and no shade slips. You will be surprised by the size of this area and the space between slips.
A great open space in the middle of the southern loop is a great place for the little ones to run off some energy, have a catch with a friend, throw a frisbee, or anything else if you want to stretch your legs.
Lots of great hiking in the park is available. We have hiked a few of the trails over the years and almost never fails to produce a whitetail sighting.
On this trip, the weather was well into the 80s and low 90s, so we passed on the trails. However, they are well groomed, easy to moderate, and not so long that you’ll be wondering “are we almost there yet”?
All hiking trails that I have walked during any of my visits to Johnson – Sauk Trail SRA have always been well cared for and have always been well groomed and not overgrown.
Definitely check out some trails while at Johnson – Sauk Trail SRA, they really are very good trails for the Midwest.
Numerous picnic areas and pavilions are dotted throughout the park and all are equally well maintained and spacious. Some of the picnic areas do not have a pavilion for shade, but there should be something available in the park if that is what you are after. Note – if you are going on a holiday weekend, as with everything else, get there early to claim your spot in this popular area.
A 58-acre lake located within the park is a decent fishing option. You will find numerous species of fish in the lake. Noted on the Illinois DNR; bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish (channel cat and bullhead) are regularly caught here. What is not well known is that the lake does have some large Muskie in it.
I caught an estimated 30 inch Muskie by accident while fishing for bass about five or seven years ago, boy was I surprised. Not being prepared for such a fish, I did not have a camera with me. However, several witnesses were nearby and said they assumed the Muskie stories were all tall tales – Not so, I swear 🙂
Trolling motors only in the lake. A decent launch area with a small bait shop located at the launch – Check store times before you come and it is a very good idea to bring bait with you for that reason. There are times when the bait shop is unattended or closed to due low traffic or off-season.
Native Americans once occupied this area in large numbers, in part due to the abundance of wildlife.
Various species of birds will be found in the Johnson – Sauk Trail SRA, rabbit, raccoon, whitetail deer, and various other small wildlife.
Check out the trails if you want to see them in greater numbers. The park is quite busy during the summer camping season so you won’t see too many animals in or around where the people are.
Not being a hunter myself, my familiarity with Illinois State Recreational Area hunting guidelines and policies is very limited. Therefore, I cannot speak to the desirability of SRA hunting, however, I would be leaving out an important part of conservation if I failed to mention it.
This particular trip, I noticed several new Hunter Access checkpoints located within the park. I assume a certain amount of hunting has always been allowed in Johnson – Sauk SRA, however, the checkpoints were not in place until recently.
Since I do not hunt myself, I cannot say with any confidence that the hunting here would be worth the time, but based on the numbers of whitetail I have seen this year and in years past, I would say your chances of taking a deer would be just as good in the park as anywhere.
Give it a try if you are looking for a new place to do some hunting. Just keep in mind that the park gets very busy during warmer months and you will have to contend with noisy campers and hikers.
If you have ever read any of my Illinois park posts in the past, you’ll know that I have a love-hate relationship with my home state. Financial woes have taken a toll on my of our parks and the first things that start to deteriorate are the facilities and structures within the parks.
Johnson – Sauk Trail SRA is no exception to Illinois’ fiscal shortfalls, however, the park has fared better than some others.
- Camping slips and surfaces are all in good condition. Some are in need of resurfacing and cutting back of trees, but nothing that you should be too worried about.
- Roads are all in exceptional shape in the park – I have seen far worse in Illinois parks; trust me.
- Restrooms are abundant in the park and all have been very clean. You will only find flushing toilets in the shower house near the camping area, otherwise, it’s outhouse style.
- Showers in the camping area are in good condition. If the park is busy your hot water might be a premium find. Try to time your showers to how many tent campers there are – seems that tent campers all go to the showers about the same time. I don’t know either??
- Restaurant and Camp Store near the lake are an added bonus. The restaurant and camp store, of course, are privately owned and operated. I have only eaten there one time over the years that I recall – not because it is bad, just that I have always been camping and not needed to buy more food. However, if you are doing some fishing and get hungry, you just might appreciate a hot meal cooked to order. The camp store is really not of much benefit I’m sad to say. They do not stock much, so calling it a camp store is a stretch. You can get some bait, firewood, and ice – must-haves. Note – make sure to check times. The restaurant and camp store has limited hours and will vary.
- Boat Launch is in good condition. Trolling motors only on this lake. The lake will support pretty much all fishing vessels but you’ll need a trolling motor to enjoy it.
Well, folks, there you have it, Johnson – Sauk Trail SRA. This post is certainly not all there is to this lovely area, however, I hope it is enough to peak your interest enough to pay this park a visit sometime.
If you are interested in some additional information, I am providing some of the links I used to research the Round Barn history. Also, as always, I am including the link to the Johnson – Sauk Trail SRA on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.
Gear I used on this trip
A very capable Bridge camera from Nikon – The Coolpix P900. The Coolpix P900 is technically a “point and shoot” camera with a lot of enhancements for the enthusiast or beginner photographer learning the skills of a DSLR. All photos above except the carved mushroom were taken with the Nikon Coolpix P900.
Click above to shop for this Nikon camera.
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