Bluff Lake, Illinois, USA

Also known as:  Fox Chain O'Lakes

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Bluff Lake.

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Bluff Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Midwest - Illinois - Chicagoland -

Bluff Lake is a part of the Fox Chain O’Lakes in northeastern Illinois’ Chicagoland tourism region, just 40 miles northwest of Chicago. This chain of glacial lakes is comprised of nine major lakes that are connected to many smaller bodies of water by a number of artificial channels and the Fox River. Water level control on the entire Fox River Chain O’Lakes is controlled by a series of dams on the Fox River. The dams, under the control of the Illinois Division of Water Resources, maintain recreational water levels and control flooding.

The Fox Chain O’Lakes encompasses an incredible 6,500 acres of water and 488 total miles of shoreline, attracting a weekend average of 60,000 visitors – a number that can skyrocket to 100,000 on holidays. Needless to say, the area is developed with real estate properties, vacation rentals, hotels, restaurants, pubs and marinas.

Aptly located in Lake County, Bluff Lake is nestled in the middle of Grass, Fox, Nippersink, Pistakee, and Petite Lakes to the south; and Lake Marie, Channel Lake, and Lake Catherine to the north. With a surface area of 86 acres, Bluff Lake is one of the smaller lakes on the chain – and for that reason it tends to be less crowded than its neighbors. Because of Bluff’s relatively diminutive size, it boasts some of the most peaceful fishing opportunities in all of the Fox Chain. Here in one of the area’s best kept secrets, anglers can expect to find yellow bass, bluegill, channel catfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, yellow perch, carp, white crappie, and walleye. Bluff Lake is particularly known for its night fishing and shoreline fishing, with a gravel bottom that attracts large quantities of white bass, largemouth bass, panfish, and stripers.

Four major trails can be explored around Bluff Lake: Nature’s Way, which allows a beautiful 2.25-mile escape into the woods; Pike Marsh North, a flat, quarter-mile trail designed for the physically disabled; an eight-mile equestrian trek with three loops; and a six-mile trail designed specifically for biking and hiking. Wildlife watching is more often successful than not, and visitors are likely to observe white-tailed deer, rabbit, mink, opossum, gopher, fox, badger, and groundhogs. Approximately 200 bird species have been spotted throughout the area , which is overrun with wildflowers during the spring, summer and fall.

Just minutes from Bluff Lake lies the 2,793 acre Chain O’Lakes State Park, an area graced with an interesting history. Before the Europeans settled in the 1600’s, the area was inhabited by the Potawatomi, Mascouten, and Miami tribes who used the land to hunt, fish, and farm. In 1673, explorers Joliet and Marquette passed through the area on their fact-finding travels throughout Illinois. The land was not officially a state park until 1945, when the State of Illinois purchased 840 acres to this end. Today, Chain O’Lakes State Park is known for its fantastic fishing and boating. Dove, waterfowl, archery deer, and pheasant hunting is permitted by registration only. During the winter months, ice fishing, ice skating, cross country skiing, and sledding are the area’s most popular pastimes, while equestrian lovers can rent horses between the months of May to October. Park amenities include recycling receptacles, playgrounds, and a concessions stand. Seven picnic areas come equipped with tables, grills, water fountains, and bathrooms. Cabins are furnished with electricity, a table, grill, broom, and fire extinguisher (but no bathroom).

Bluff Lake is surrounded with exciting things to see and do, with possible day trips including the Nippersink Forest Preserve, the Duck Farm Forest Preserve, and the Department of Natural Resources Moraine Hills State Park. From its natural preserves to its water sports, lovers of the great outdoors will be delighted with everything that Bluff Lake and the Fox Chain has to offer.

Custom Bluff Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Bluff Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Bluff Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • White Bass
  • White Crappie
  • Yellow Bass
  • Yellow Perch

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Bluff Lake

The Bluff Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Bluff Lake photo gallery

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Bluff Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Illinois Dept. of Transportation-Division of Water Resources

Surface Area: 86 acres

Shoreline Length: 2 miles

Maximum Depth: 31 feet

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