It seems appropriate for one of the largest campgrounds in the Illinois state park system to be located on the largest manmade lake in Illinois. Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area is a 3,000-acre site on the western shore of Carlyle Lake, a Kaskaskia River impoundment. The site is located 3 miles north of Carlyle and 2 miles east of Illinois Route 127 in Clinton County.
Eldon Hazlet SRA attracts more than 800,000 visitors annually to camp, boat, fish, hunt, picnic, bird watch and to hike more than 9 miles of trails. Also popular are the sailboat regattas, held almost every summer weekend.
The site is leased by the IDNR from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the 26,000-acre lake. The state recreation area is named for Carlyle attorney Eldon Hazlet, the first president of the Kaskaskia Valley Association, which organized and promoted construction of two of Illinois' three largest reservoir/recreational complexes - Carlyle Lake and Lake Shelbyville - plus other improvements on the Kaskaskia River.
Eldon Hazlet SRA is probably best known for its camping facilities. The Illini Campground has 328 Class A campsites with 30 and 50 amp electrical hook-ups, 36 Class C campsites for walk-in tent camping and two rustic rent-a-cabins.
Because of its central location relative to the lake, the park is a great place to launch a boat. Three boat ramps are available to the public free-of-charge. With a four-lane boat ramp with a handicapped accessible courtesy dock, two picnic shelters and privy toilets, Allen Branch Day Use Area is one of the most popular boat launching spots on the lake. Apache Day Use Area has a two-lane ramp, picnic shelter, play equipment, fish cleaning station and privy toilets. Peppenhorst Branch has a graveled small-boat ramp used by anglers and hunters but it is also a great launch area for kayaks. Sailing: A combination of wide open water, low surrounding terrain and strong winds provides the conditions which make Carlyle Lake one of the Midwest’s most popular sailing lakes. Regional and national regattas are held here, and in 1994 the U.S. Olympic Festival games sailing competition was hosted by Eldon Hazlet SRA and the Carlyle Sailing Association.
A 40-acre sailboat harbor, protected in a deep inlet, is at the south end of the park and is operated as a land-based marina, meaning all boats are stored on land. The sailboat harbor is leased from the park by the Carlyle Sailing Association, which operates it as a concession for members. Non-members may launch boats for fee.
In addition to boat launching privileges, payment of the fee entitles the non-member to use the harbor’s other facilities - showers, picnic tables, play equipment, day-use docks, and a large shelter with electricity and a barbecue pit. When slots are available, parking privileges in the harbor’s members-only overnight boat parking area may be extended to non-members staying several days at the park and paying the launching fee.
The harbor complex has a conventional boat launching ramp and three electric hoists which can place sailboats up to 2,000 pounds (in the 16- to 18-foot range) in the water from the harbor wall. For additional information, contact the harbor master at 618-594-3622
Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area is probably best known for its camping facilities. The Illini Campground has 328 Class A campsites with 30 and 50 amp electrical hook-ups, 36 Class C campsites for walk-in tent camping and two rustic rent-a-cabins.
Seven Class A campsites are accessible to individuals in wheelchairs. The campground occupies almost 1 1/2 miles of the Carlyle Lake shoreline, and most of the campsites are within easy reach of the water. Many campers keep their boats in the coves located along the campground.
Three shower buildings are located in the campground, plus numerous privy toilets. Recreational amenities include several sets of playground equipment, a basketball court, a sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, an amphitheater and hiking trails. Plenty of parking is available for vehicles and boat trailers. To register for a campsite see one of the campground hosts.
Campsites may be reserved for a maximum of 14 nights per 30-day period and reservation must be made at least five days before the campsite is needed. Reservations for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Columbus Day weekends require a three-night minimum stay. All other weekends require a two-night minimum stay. Cancellations made five days before arrival will lose the $5 reservation fee, but the remainder of the camping fee will be refunded. Cancellations made less than five days before arrival will be charged the $5 fee and the first nights camping fee; the remainder of the camping fees will be refunded.
The Eldon Hazlet Campground Store, located at the entrance to the Illini Campground, is a 2,000-square-foot store which contains groceries, camping and fishing supplies, clothes, live bait, ice and firewood. A public laundry room and outdoor patio also are available. Please call the store at 618-594-8701 for hours of operation.
Group Camping: Youth group camping is available at the Osage Youth Group Area. With easy access to the lake and plenty of hiking trails, this area is a favorite of scout and church groups. The campground has a picnic shelter, privy toilets and drinking water. Although the area is not reservable, it is very large and can accommodate hundreds of campers. Youth groups may schedule nature hikes or interpretive programs by calling the site office. Hazlet Cottages: Twenty cottages overlooking the lake are available for rent offering spectacular views of the lake and the 780 square foot units contain a kitchenette, bar, living area, bedroom, loft and deck. The kitchenette is equipped with stove, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and sink. Other amenities include cable TV, linens and cookware. Twelve complimentary boat docks are available to cottage renters upon request.
Certainly one of the most popular activities at Carlyle Lake is fishing. More than 30 species of fish occur at the lake, including such local favorites as white bass, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, carp and buffalo. Bank fishing is allowed anywhere in the park. The Allen Branch area is used most often and offers an accessible fishing pier. A fish cleaning station (also accessible) is located at Apache Boat Ramp.
Illini Pond is a 4-acre fishing pond with a walk-out pier and located across from the Campground Store on the Illini Trail. The lake is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish and provides easy fishing opportunities for children.
More than 9 miles of trails are available to hikers at Eldon Hazlet. The 3-mile Cherokee Trail has three separate loops that pass through a mature oak-hickory forest over gently rolling terrain, offering great views of the lake. The Pawnee Trail is a 1-mile loop trail running along the highest point on Carlyle Lake. Both the Cherokee and Pawnee trails lead to Burnside Cemetery, a restored cemetery with tombstones dating to the 1830s.
The Kaskaskian Trail is a 2 1/2-mile loop trail that begins at the park office and passes by the youth campground, the Pawnee Trail, various day-use areas and the Eagle trail, a 3/4-mile loop near the north end of Illini Campground. A 1/4 -mile accessible interpretive trail is located within the 3-acre prairie restoration directly across from the park office. The 1-mile Illini Trail is located across from the Campground Store and loops around the Illini Fishing Pond. All trails are closed Wednesday through Sunday during pheasant season
The park has more than 50 acres designated for archery deer, dove, and upland game hunting. In addition, a controlled pheasant hunting program is held every year, usually from early November to early January.