Carlyle Lake, Illinois, USA

Also known as:  Carlyle Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Carlyle Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Carlyle Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Carlyle Lake

Carlyle Lake, located in south-central Illinois, holds dual titles as largest artificial lake and largest body of water wholly contained within the state. Located about 50 miles east of St. Louis, Carlyle Lake was created by the Army Corps of Engineers between 1958 and 1967. Though its 26,000 acre surface still provides flood control for the surrounding region, it has developed as a major recreational hub for those who love boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

Carlyle Lake offers many interesting tidbits for U.S. history buffs. Humans first settled the region over 10,000 years ago, and the Native Americans built their settlements around the area’s Kaskaskia River, traveling over a natural ford to conduct their daily activities. Today, that site is host to the historic General Dean Bridge, a member of the National Historic Registry and the only such suspension bridge in Illinois. European settlers first arrived to this region around 1812, building a fort and lock house to protect themselves against the Native American inhabitants. The Europeans named the area Carlyle, after Sir Thomas Carlyle, a prominent figure in 18th Century literature.

Carlyle Lake is an angler’s delight, offering over 30 species, including bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, sauger, and walleye. In fact, the lake is a favorite of anglers due to its impressive 3,250 pounds per water acre, one of the most productive in Illinois. Renting a boat at the lake is easy, so grab your pole and bait box and ask any of the friendly local fishermen where the fishing is best. You’re sure to enjoy a beautiful day on the lake as you drift along, waiting to reel in a prize catch.

Hunters also take great pleasure in Carlyle Lake’s offerings, as the wildlife is prevalent and hunting a celebrated pastime. From November through January, Eldon Hazlet State Park holds a controlled pheasant hunt. In addition, the Department of Natural Resources has sanctioned seasons for hunting bobwhite quail, mourning doves, squirrels, turkeys, and white-tailed deer, providing opportunities for almost any hunt you can imagine.

When you’re finished catching your next meal, head out onto the waters of Carlyle Lake, known by sailors as one of the best and most challenging lakes on which to sail. Indeed, the winds are good at the reservoir: in 1994, the U.S. Olympic Festival Sailing Competition was held here, and exciting races occurred almost every weekend during the summer. Though that summer has come and gone, sailboat enthusiasts flock to the lake every year for some time on the water.

For those who simply want a vacation, Carlyle Lake fits the bill: camping areas, golf courses, rental boats, swimming areas, and delicious restaurants dot the shores, tempting you to try out a bit of everything. Two state parks — Eldon Hazlet State Park and South Shore State Park — share the shoreline, providing boat access as well as picnic areas, green space, and ideal spots to lay your beach towel down as you soak up some sun and enjoy the cool waters on a hot summer day.

Whether you’re a dedicated angler, hobbyist sailor, or vacationer wanting to get away from it all, Carlyle Lake will offer you everything you’re looking for and more, so make some room in your schedule and head to one of Illinois’s greatest lakes.

Things to Do at Carlyle Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Carlyle Lake

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Perch
  • Sauger
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Carlyle Lake

If you’re considering a Carlyle Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Carlyle Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Carlyle Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Carlyle Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 26,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 85 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 445 feet

Average Depth: 11 feet

Maximum Depth: 35 feet

Completion Year: 1967

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Carlyle Lake Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Carlyle Lake Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Carlyle Lake Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Carlyle Lake Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Carlyle Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!