East Fork Lake, Illinois, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Illinois - Southern -

Also known as:  East Fork Reservoir

East Fork Lake, in the Southern Region of Illinois, is a well-kept secret in a land of many secrets. The southern third of Illinois has been known as Little Egypt since the early 1800s. Exactly when it gained the nickname and the true reasons are lost to history, but historians suspect it had to do with the area being the confluence of some of the country’s largest rivers: the Mississippi, Ohio, Wabash, Big and Little Muddy, Little Wabash, Saline, and Cache. Many early towns in the area hold classic Egyptian names, such as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak. Others claim that, because the area was spared the severe winter weather of the 1830s, settlers from northern Illinois traveled here to buy grain to replace their failed crops. The similarity to the story in the biblical Book of Genesis caused people to call the area Egypt. Whatever the reason, the people of the area to this day still proudly tell all comers they are “from Little Egypt.”

Although well supplied with rivers, much of southern Illinois has few lakes. In order to maintain a constant water supply, most towns have constructed reservoirs to serve residents’ water needs. The city of Olney has built three, with East Fork Lake being the newest and largest by far. Vernor lake, with 45 acres, was built in the early 1900s, only to be replaced by 136-acre Borah Lake in 1956. By 1970, East Fork Lake’s 934 acres had taken over as main water source for the City of Olney. The city owns all three lakes and has provided parks and pubic areas on each for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. The lakes are accessible to boat traffic with a permit purchased from the city. The two smaller lakes have some restrictions on boat motor size and speeds; information can be obtained from City Hall and the satellite office on East Fork Lake.

East Fork Lake is home to most water sports. Public access docks are available on the north shore of the lake near the campground area. Water skiing, tubing, sailing and powerboating are enjoyed along with canoeing and kayakng. There is no swim area designated on East Fork Lake, but swimming is allowed from boats only in one area along the south shore. Nearby Borah Lake does have a swimming area, and the city of Olney has a new pool with waterslide and water umbrella.

Fishing is where East Fork Lake really shines: many anglers claim East Fork contains more large bass than any other lake in Illinois. Bass tournaments are held here regularly throughout the warmer months, but local anglers know both Vernor and Borah also contain plenty of whoppers. As a result, it’s surprisingly easy to catch one’s limit on all of the three lakes. An excellent stocking program assures the optimum number of fish remain available. Other fish in the reservoir include black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, gizzard shad, largemouth bass, longear sunfish, red shiner, redear sunfish, threadfin shad, walleye, warmouth, white crappie and yellow bullhead. The many tree-lined coves and bays provide excellent fish habitat and are a small-boater’s and paddler’s delight. Non-boaters will find several fine shore-fishing spots along the southern shore. Much of the shoreline is undeveloped, making East Fork Lake the perfect lake for floating lazily along the shore enjoying the birds and wildlife.

Day use areas on East Fork Lake include Kiwanis/ Rotary Park, Millers Grove Park, and Bird Haven. All three offer picnic shelters and electricity. Some provide playground equipment and ball fields. Bird Haven was developed by Robert Ridgway, a naturalist, scientist, artist, and author in the employ of the Smithsonian. A world-renowned ornithologist, Ridgeway and his wife lived on the property and encouraged the residence of both birds and specialized plants. Unfortunately, much of the original property was destroyed when East Fork Lake was built. The remainder has been preserved for nature lovers to observe flora and fauna native to the area. Private RV parks are located along the north shore.

The area around East Fork Lake has a variety of lodging opportunities. Vacation rentals in the form of private residences, motels, guest cabins and lodges are plentiful in the immediate vicinity. Even non-fishermen can find many points of interest around East Fork Lake and Olney. The city of Olney offers an aqua-park, several public ball fields, tennis courts, the Carnegie Museum, and Heritage House Museum. Olney is well supplied with shopping and services, including a movie theater and community college. Two excellent golf courses are located very near East Fork Lake. One of the better known local attractions is the breeding population of white squirrels nesting in city parks and older residential areas.

A few miles north of Olney, the Newton Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area supports several flocks of now-rare prairie chickens, as well as walking trails and fishing. Sam Parr State Fish and Wildlife Area, also near Newton, offers camping, fishing, hiking trails and hunting in season. Twelve miles east of Olney, Red Hills State Park is the highest point of land between St. Louis and Cincinnati. The adjacent 627-acre Chauncey Marsh Nature Preserve contains the best remaining example of what is called a Wabash Border Marsh Ecosystem. In late July and early August, beautiful pink and white hibiscus and hairy rose mallow are in bloom. Camping is available here.

East Fork Lake is 120 miles east of St. Louis and 30 miles west of Vincennes, Indiana. Primarily a farming area, the people are friendly and the pace somewhat laid-back. A strong sense of community is represented in one of the traditions common to this part of the country: the chowder. Similar to a New England chowder dinner, the chowder here is more of a community event that includes a meal. Usually scheduled after garden crops begin to ripen, the “chowder” — usually including salt pork, potatoes and the local secret ingredients — is cooked in huge pots for a community meal. Often accompanied by a festival of some type, competition between communities is fierce as to who makes the best chowder. No late summer visitor should pass up the chance to sample the local chowder.

Real estate is available in the East Fork Lake area. From residential lots to large farmland tracts, something can be found here to suit nearly any buyer. So, plan a vacation to East Fork Lake to become acquainted with the area. You may decide to come back every year for the local chowder — and the bass!

Things to do at East Fork Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • City Park
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Movie Theater
  • Shopping

Fish species found at East Fork Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Shad
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • Warmouth
  • White Crappie
  • Yellow Bullhead

East Fork Lake Photo Gallery

    East Fork Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Surface Area: 934 acres

    Shoreline Length: 32 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 475 feet

    Average Depth: 10 feet

    Maximum Depth: 36 feet

    Water Volume: 12,460 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1970

    Water Residence Time: 1.4 yrs

    Drainage Area: 10 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Eutrophic

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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