Devils Kitchen Lake, Illinois, USA

Also known as:  Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

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

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All About Devils Kitchen Lake

Devils Kitchen Lake is one of three lakes (the other two are Crab Orchard Lake and Little Grassy Lake) that are part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Williamson County of Illinois. The refuge is maintained by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service. Devils Kitchen Lake has an 810-acre surface area and was formed by the impounding of southern Illinois’ Grassy Creek. It is about 4 miles long and 0.25 miles wide.

The area which Devils Kitchen Lake now lies was once a valley where early pioneers often camped, taking pause from their journeys in order to rejuvenate. Vegetation from the valley was not removed before being flooded, so there are still standing trees in the lake. Therefore, swimming is prohibited due to standing timber, with fines imposed for violators. Three boat ramps and a campground are available. Outboard motors are limited to 10 horsepower, and the southeast end of the lake is reserved for electric motors and paddlers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a recreational user fee. Patrons can obtain a one-day, 5-day or yearly pass at the Visitor’s Center located on Route 148 South.

Before the days of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, the lands surrounding Devils Kitchen Lake consisted of farms. But as a result of excessive use, the land’s resources were exhausted and 32,000 acres of it were handed over to the Resettlement Administration in 1936 for a new plan. The Crab Orchard Creek Project, as the administration’s plan was called, outlined the construction of three lakes for recreation and industrial water supply. The project was transferred to the War Department during World War II and then again to the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, delaying Devils Kitchen Lake’s completion until 1959.

The lake’s intriguing name has two origins. One refers to a large, black rock ledge that overlooked the valley where travelers set up their camp fires and cooked their meals. Black, having a particularly dark connotation at the time, helped give rise to “Devil’s Kitchen.” Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with the other name origin. During World War II, when work on the Crab Orchard Creek Project was stopped, homeless people inhabited the facilities. When work was resumed after the war, Franklin and Eleanor visited the area to view the project’s progress. When Eleanor walked into the messy cook house, she is reported to have said “This truly is the Devil’s kitchen.”

Devils Kitchen Lake is one of few lakes in Illinois where rainbow trout still abound. These freshwater fish like the cool, deep water of the reservoir that measures up to a maximum depth of 90 feet. Anglers can also find crappie, bluegill, bass and redear fish. Due to the 10 horsepower limit, the lake is quiet and calm, providing opportunities to glimpse deer or wild turkey near the water’s edge. Other wildlife that make Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge their home include American bald eagles, river otters, water birds such as American coots, turtles, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, beavers, quail, and cottontail rabbits.

Visitors should also take advantage of the many other attractions that Williamson County has to offer. After a long, relaxing trip on Devils Kitchen Lake, explore other parts of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Visit one or two of the ten award-winning wineries and vineyards or gallivant the time away in one of the neighboring towns. A historical museum, golf courses, art and cultural activities, exquisite dining experiences, and antique shopping are just few of the possibilities awaiting you in Williamson County. Comfortable accommodations are available. The county has a varied selection of inn, motel, suite and cabin lodgings.

Things to Do at Devils Kitchen Lake

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • Museum
  • Antiquing
  • Shopping

Fish Species Found at Devils Kitchen Lake

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Find Places to Stay at Devils Kitchen Lake

If you’re considering a Devils Kitchen 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 Devils Kitchen Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Devils Kitchen 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.

Devils Kitchen Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Surface Area: 810 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 499 feet

Maximum Depth: 90 feet

Water Volume: 24,500 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1959

Drainage Area: 50 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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.

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