Fox Lake, Illinois, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Illinois - Chicagoland -

Also known as:  Nippersink Lake, Fox Chain O'Lakes

Located north of Chicago in the Chicagoland Region of Illinois, Fox Lake is part of the Fox River Chain of Lakes. The Fox River Chain consists of nine large and several smaller bodies of water including a stretch of the Fox River. The hydrologically connected chain of lakes, just south of the Wisconsin border, is interconnected in such a way that inflows between the lakes change based on prevailing winds. 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.

Originally called Nippersink Lake, now only the large bay west of Fox Lake is known by that name; it is considered a separate lake. Movement from Fox Lake to Nippersink, Grass, Petite, Bluff, Pistakee, Channel, Spring, Catherine and Redhead Lake is direct and therefore easy for boaters to navigate, making it a favorite for all types of water sports. Several other lakes, including Lake of the Hollow, Lac Louette, Jerilyn, Dunns, Duck and Long Lakes can be accessed with smaller boats by channel and improved streams. Fox Lake’s imprint on Illinois history stretches back continuously for over 150 years.

The area around Fox Lake was originally explored in the late 1600s by Europeans. Some reports say French explorers entered Fox lake, but others say it appears English trappers got there first. The only reason European settlement didn’t occur until 1836 was the area was owned by the Pottawatomie tribe. When sold by treaty to the United States, settlers quickly flocked to the area to farm and to take advantage of the bounty provided by the waters and expanse of wetlands along the chain of lakes. Only forty miles from Chicago, entrepreneurs found a ready market for their products and services among the city dwellers. Some hunted waterfowl, packing their catch in barrels for shipment to upscale Chicago hotels. Others did the same with fish, or raked clam beds both for freshwater pearls and for shells used in button-making.

Several enterprising land owners built “hunting and fishing resorts” — crude log multi-room edifices that could accommodate hunting parties. It wasn’t long before more genteel accommodations on Fox Lake attracted families for a few weeks or the whole summer. By 1880, the entire area was well-known as a resort area, with visitors coming by train to the many large and elaborate resort hotels. Postcards from the era show cruise boats and ladies picking lotus from rowboats on Grass Lake, which was once covered almost entirely by American Lotus. In 1910, the Chicago Tribune referred to the area as the “Vice Capital,” noting the openness of gambling, saloons, dance halls, and other activities. Gangster Al Capone frequented one of the local drinking establishments.

With the advent of the automobile, the large resort hotels faded away to be replaced by summer homes and cottages. The allure of Fox Lake never waned, however; the lake and the entire Fox River Chain remain a favored destination of summer visitors to swim, fish, water ski, enjoy tubing, wake boarding, jet skiing and pontooning. After the river was dammed downstream, the Fox Waterway Agency was formed to bring order to competing water use interest groups. Projects and maintenance are paid for by user fees paid by each boat using the waterway. Some of the projects include dredging, shoreline protection and water quality monitoring. Water levels drop about a foot and a half in winter due to drawdown at Stratton Dam several miles downstream at McHenry.

Fox Lake’s residents, both year-round and seasonal, find a variety of amenities to occupy their time. A water taxi operates in the summer and transports fare-paying customers from point to point. As Fox Lake offers a variety of water-accessible eating and drinking establishments, the water taxi operates a “party barge” route so that the inevitable bar-hopping crowd can travel between venues in safety and comfort. Several full-service marinas provides fuel, boat repairs, berths and fishing supplies. Other establishments rent boats, pontoons and personal watercraft. Sailing is popular here and nearby Pistakee Lake hosts a yacht club that accesses most of the chain of lakes.

Fishing is a major drawing card to Fox Lake. The chain holds largemouth and white bass, crappies, bluegills, channel cat, bullheads, carp and yellow perch, along with the big fish such as northern pike, walleye and muskie. The latter are actively stocked by the State to assure good fishing for the trophy hunter. Three large bays (Mineola, Stanton and Columbia), as well as the area around large Orchard Island, provide the best fishing locations. Several boat launch locations around the lake give fishermen good access to the water. And winter, of course, brings ice fishermen.

Visitors to Fox Lake will never run out of things to do even off the water. The Village of Fox Lake offers grocery stores, fast-food stops, a movie theater and the customary small town services. Other small communities along the shore — Ingleside Shore, Fox Lake Hills and Klondike — provide convenience stores. All are geared to the outdoorsman and recreational lake visitor. Just outside of Fox Lake Village, the Grant Woods Forest Preserve provides hundred of acres of wide-open prairies, quiet woodlands, and marshes teeming with wildlife. Six miles of trails, most of which have a crushed-gravel surface, provide plentiful hiking and wildlife viewing. In winter, snowmobilers have access to 4.5 miles of the trail system that tie into adjacent snowmobile trails on private land.

Just north of Fox Lake, adjoining Grass Lake, Chain O’Lakes State Park borders three natural lakes — Grass, Marie and Nippersink — and the Fox River that connects the other seven lakes (Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead) that make up the Chain. In addition, the park contains a 44-acre lake within its boundaries. The 2,793-acre state park and adjoining 3,230-acre conservation area are home to white-tailed deer, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mink, opossum, skunks, raccoons, gophers, fox, badgers, beaver, coyotes, and groundhogs. A check-list of the nearly 200 birds that have been identified in the park is available at the park office. Camping, fishing, hiking and cross-country skiing are available within the park. During hunting season, certain areas are available to the hunter with permit.

Vacation rentals are always available around Fox Lake. Motels, private homes and bed-and-breakfasts are plentiful in the area. Real estate is often found for sale either lakefront or lake view. It’s a great place to visit, vacation or raise a family. The nearby Metra line can ferry commuters into the Chicago area in less than an hour. So don’t wait another day to locate vacation lodgings in the area: Fox Lake is lake living at its best.

Things to do at Fox Lake IL

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Movie Theater

Fish species found at Fox Lake IL

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Crappie
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye
  • White Bass
  • Yellow Perch

Fox Lake IL Photo Gallery

Fox Lake IL Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

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

Surface Area: 1,881 acres

Shoreline Length: 37 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 732 feet

Average Depth: 6 feet

Maximum Depth: 18 feet

Water Residence Time: 48 days

Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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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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