Sha-bbo-na. It’s fun to say and even more fun to visit. Shabbona Lake (318 acres of lake) is a man-made lake created in 1975 by damming up a tributary of the nearby Fox River. The state park (well, technically a state recreation area) surrounding the lake is comprised of 1,550 acres of rolling prairie and forest. There are grass-covered meadows, upland mesic woods, bottomland woods, and a native, undisturbed fen. There are facilities for picnicking, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, winter sports, and camping, which was the main reason I visited.
Here is the Shabbona Lake State Park map:
I stayed at the campground, where all sites have electricity, picnic tables, fire rings and vehicle access. The campground was more than half empty even on a beautiful but cold fall Saturday when I stayed. Happily, that meant I had a lakeside campsite with no neighbors. Oddly enough, most people had set up further from the water, not sure why. If you’re not into tent camping or sleeping in your car like I do, there are 2 cabin rentals available, but they must be reserved in advance and no walk-ins are permitted. Of the 150 Class A Premium campsites, 60 campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
I’m not a fisherman, but the Shabbona Lake fishing report and informational sign showing the size and type of fish you can catch certainly made me wish I was. There’s a seasonal bait shop, boat rental, and fishing tips there for the asking. When I visited, I saw a few people out in small boats and people casting from the shore atop the earthen dam.
If you’re more interested in animals on land or in the air, Shabbona Lake has deer and migratory waterfowl such as canvasback, redheads, pintail ducks and Canada geese (I definitely got my share of the geese’s honking well into the night). During the appropriate seasons, archery deer hunting, waterfowl and dove hunting are available on 744 acres of Shabbona Lake.
Unfortunately, swimming and/or wading is prohibited at Shabbona Lake. This regulation is strictly enforced, according to the recreation area website.
I imagine this park gets pretty busy during the Summer months, but it was nice to spend a peaceful afternoon and night there during a Fall weekend. I drove around the park and apart from the fishermen, it was pretty quiet. I got in some geocaching (a lot easier with the plant life dying back). I’m planning on returning in warmer weather, family in tow, to rent one of the cabins and spend a weekend hiking and boating and getting to know the area better.