Boating in Southern Illinois

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Boating in Southern Illinois & Southern Illinois Marinas

With so many unique waterways to experience, Shawnee Forest is one of the most varied and adventure-filled locations for boating in Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois marinas at some of Shawnee Forest’s premiere lakes and river passages offer a variety of services such as docking, boat rentals, full service stations, and outfitting equipment and supplies. Engage with local culture by night and experience amazing boating opportunities by day when you visit any of the water-filled attractions in Shawnee National Forest.

Major Rivers in Southern Illinois

From the mighty Mississippi to watershed canoeing opportunities, the flowing waters of Shawnee National Forest offer boating enthusiasts picturesque vistas and ample fishing opportunities. Whether your goal is sport fishing on the Ohio River, wildlife viewing by canoe, or simply a weekend relaxing and soaking-in the local culture while floating your personal boat down river; Shawnee Forest Illinois rivers offer adventurers like you any experience your heart desires.

The Mississippi River near Southern Illinois

The Mississippi River is one of the primary waterways in North America. Beginning in Minnesota and ending at the Gulf of Mexico, it carries large numbers of people and goods from the central continental US to international ports in Louisiana.

The Mississippi-Missouri River combination is the fourth longest river system in the world beaten only by the Nile, Amazon, and Yangtze rivers. The river is between 20 feet and 11 miles wide depending on which section you wish to explore. Bring your boat to shore and enjoy Shawnee National Forest hiking just a hop, skip, and a jump away in the Illinois Ozarks. Southern Illinois has the perfect lodging to suit any travelling needs along the Mississippi River.

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Wildlife and Fishing on the Mississippi

40% of all waterfowl and shorebirds use a migration route known as The Mississippi Flyway to reach their summer and winter destinations. Travel along The Great River Road or hike one of the many trails in the area and enjoy some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring views of migrating birds you will ever see.

Canoeing and kayaking opportunities abound on the Mississippi River. Bring a kayak or boat and experience a real Huckleberry Finn adventure while fishing the waters of the Mississippi for walleye, catfish, and large- and smallmouth bass. This underutilized fishery is likely to give you the opportunity to catch the big one.

The Ohio River near Southern Illinois

The Ohio River and Mississippi River join together at the Southernmost tip of Illinois at Cairo, a landmark of freedom for many escaped American slaves. Get out of your boat and enjoy a little history by visiting landmarks like Sand Cave where freed African American families housed large numbers of runaway slaves on their way to Canada.

Stretching an incredible 981 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Ohio River brings a broad variety of fishing and boating opportunities to Southern Illinois and features sport fish that have won various trophies and awards at many fishing competitions in the area.

Water levels and navigation are recorded and maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers. Depths near the Cairo, Illinois, section of the Ohio River run from 9 to 90 feet. Navigation buoys run the length of the river making safe and easy travel for boaters of any experience level. There are 3 dams on the Southern Illinois section of the Ohio River. The Smithland Dam is a lift damn that ushers boats quickly between the different water elevations while the older 2 dams are wicket dams that must be raised and lowered manually and may take several hours to pass through.

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Ohio River Fishing and Fun

Launch your boat or rent a boat from the Golconda Marina, a full-service marina offering travelers rental boats, docking, and a full service store. While travelling the large waterway that courses through 6 states including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia; be sure to stop by the E-Town River Restaurant, a unique little floating eatery in Elizabethtown, Illinois, where you can dock your boat and enjoy the freshest fish in Southern Illinois specializing in catfish caught daily straight from the Ohio River without ever leaving the water.

Fish one of the Southern Illinois inlets, tributaries, and pools on the Ohio River near Southern Illinois that stretches 133 miles along the border. Catch a wide assortment of over 150 different species of river fish native to the area as well as some species that have been introduced to the river system.

The Smithland Pool is the largest of the three river pools found along this section of the Ohio River. It provides picturesque scenery while you fish for various types of catfish, bass, drum, crappie, and bluegill. Catch includes sport fish like sauger and striped bass in faster flowing currents around the upper portions of the pool by Old Shawneetown, Illinois.

The Cache River System in Southern Illinois

Have you hiked Heron Pond and want to explore other beautiful slow moving waterways in the area? Explore Southern Illinois wetlands by kayak or canoe, and check out all of the majestic wildlife native to the area. The Cache River State Natural Area is a prime location for paddling with the family and learning a bit more about the natural and geologic history of the area.

Long before the Ohio River settled into its present course, glacial runoff in the area created these beautiful natural areas filled with Cypress trees over 1,000 years old. Due to the importance of these areas to the migratory paths of waterfowl and shoreline birds, the 1996 Ramsar Convention designated this area as Wetlands of International Importance. Over 100 species of plants and animals in this area are listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois. Please be sure to practice Leave No Trace ethics to preserve this natural area for generations to come.

Learn more about the area with a guided tour offered by Cache Bayou Outfitters which also provides nature lovers with rental canoes and kayaks to complete their paddling adventure through this protected area.

Recreational Lakes in Southern Illinois

The Shawnee Forest offers boating adventurers miles of shoreline and boating attractions in Southern Illinois. Marinas at each of these pristine areas for Summertime family fun specialize in enhancing your experience whether you want to rent a boat or bring your own and rent a slip. Motorized boats and paddling boats alike are welcomed at many of these beautiful and scenic lakes in the Illinois Ozarks.

Kincaid Lake

At Kincaid Lake Marina, experienced technicians can assist in boat repairs, while you experience the relaxation that Kinkaid Lake inspires in its tourists. The staff at Kinkaid Lake Marina can point you in the right direction for a fun day or weekend outing whether you are scouting a new fishing or hunting area, or you want to hike through the hills and enjoy the natural features of the area.

Rent a pontoon or jon boat for a full day or half-day beginning at just $50. Four boat ramps provide easy access to the lake for fishermen looking to catch largemouth bass, bluegill, or crappie. Stretch your sea legs and picnic at any of the wonderful outdoor grill and picnicking areas available along the shoreline. Call the marina at (618) 687-4914 for more information on how you can start your Southern Illinois boating adventure on Kincaid Lake.

Lake of Egypt

Spend your summer vacation boating Southern Illinois’ Lake of Egypt and take advantage of the services available at Mack’s Marina. Sit in the sun and feel the boat sway beneath you as you cast your line and catch crappie or bluegill. Spend the day hiking with the family at any of the area state and national parks.

Buy or rent an array of boats from the Marina to explore the lake, stop into Tommy’s No Wake Lounge and take advantage of a full service bar, outdoor fire pits, bean bag courts, and live music to dance the night away. Many of your favorite beverages are on tap and waiting for you or enjoy locally grown and produced award-winning wines and beer available on the weekends for your tasting pleasure.

Rend Lake

Make Rend Lake Marina the highlight of your summer with seasonal and overnight boat slips. Rent a pontoon or fishing boat or dock your own at one of many available lakeside boat slips. The marina’s factory certified mechanics can assist you with any of your boat’s maintenance and repair needs.

Visit the full service ship store to stock up on all of your fishing and boating essentials, and grab a small snack to stretch your sea legs. Find seasonal rates for everything from houseboats with electric meters to dry docking. Rend Lake Marina is sure to have whatever boat storage style best suits your needs.

Little Grassy Lake

Sitting on a 1,000 acre lake, Little Grassy Marina and Campground has everything you need to accommodate your weekend on the water. Rent a pontoon boat, Jon boat, canoe, or kayak to explore the Little Grassy Lake. Catch bluegill, crappie, bass, or catfish from the shore or a boat in this pristine piece of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Boat rentals start as low at $20 for a canoe or kayak or rent a 9, 10, or 16 person pontoon boat for a full or half-day of family swimming and boating fun.

Visit the onsite general store to restock your camping essentials when you pitch your tent or bring your RV to Little Grassy. Enjoy a hot shower and indoor restrooms each morning. Swim at the beach or take part in some of the many events featured at Little Grassy Lake each year. Little Grassy Marina also offers many package specials to groups and families that want to enjoy all of the fun and festivities at the lake.

Marinas and Campgrounds in Illinois

Golconda Marina on the Ohio River

Full-Service Marina on the Ohio River with rental boats, docking, and a full service store.

(618) 683-5875

Rend Lake Marina

Full-Service Marina on Rend Lake, Illinois, with rental boats, boat slips, and full service store.

West Dam Lane 8955
Benton, Illinois 61812

(618) 724-7651

Mack’s Marina on Lake of Egypt

Full-Service Marina on Lake of Egypt offering a convenience store and a full line of boating accessories. Water skiing and jet skiing essentials are available, and check out Tommy’s No Wake Zone Lounge.

12024 Laguna Drive,
Marion, IL 62959

1990 Market Rd,
Marion, IL 62959

(618) 964-1821

Little Grassy Lake Marina & Campground

Fish for bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill at Little Grassy Lake in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.The marina offers boat, kayak, and canoe rentals and camping

788 Hidden Bay Lane
Makanda, IL 62958

(618) 457-6655

Pyramid Acres

Take advantage of the wonderful resources that Lake of Egypt has to offer at Pyramid Acres. Docking, boat ramps, and a festive environment with wonderful food awaits you.

(618) 964-1184

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