Kinkaid Lake, Illinois, USA

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Kinkaid Lake is a scenic 2,350-acre reservoir surrounded by sandstone bluffs and rolling hills of oaks and hickories on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest in southwestern Illinois. The lake is located in Jackson County about 15 miles northwest of Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University. Kinkaid Lake was created in 1972 for recreation and water supply when Crisenberry Dam impounded Kinkaid Creek. The dam is owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The lake receives water from Kinkaid, Little Kinkaid, Spring and Johnson Creeks. Ownership of the land surrounding the lake is shared among the U.S. Forest Service (5,000 acres), the Illinois DNR (4,000 acres), and the Kinkaid-Reed’s Creek Conservancy District (300 acres) which oversees the lake’s water quality. Although Kinkaid Lake supplies water to Jackson and Perry County residents, it is better known for its plentiful recreational offerings.

Four public boat ramps and a full-service marina provide access to Kinkaid Lake. Although there is no horsepower restriction, there are many no-wake areas along the lake’s beautiful 73-mile shoreline. Boaters, canoeists, kayakers, and anglers share the waters of Kinkaid Lake, exploring topography ranging from sandstone bluff formations to hills blanketed with oak and hickory trees to flat expanses of prairie grasses.

Nationally known for its fishing, Kinkaid Lake provides anglers with ample opportunity to catch largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, walleye, muskellunge (muskie), and bluegill. With depths reaching about 80 feet at the dam’s spillway, Kinkaid Lake’s cool waters have supported a successful muskie stocking program since 1985, with fish reaching 40 inches just five years later. Illinois DNR also stocks the lake with walleye with excellent growth to 16 inches. However, during periods of heavy rain, fish would escape the lake over the spillway. In order to prevent the loss of large fish, DNR constructed a spillway barrier in 1998. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends limiting consumption of predator fish species such as walleye and largemouth bass due to the possibility of mercury in the food chain.

The Shawnee National Forest beckons outdoor enthusiasts. For boaters, the Buttermilk Hill Picnic Area provides boat docks, picnic tables, and restrooms; these facilities are located on the western shore of Kinkaid Lake within the forest trail system. The Kinkaid Lake trail system consists of about 31 miles of maintained trails for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. Several trailheads provide access to the trail system, including the Buttermilk Hill Trailhead, Hidden Cove Trailhead, Crisenberry Dam, and the Johnson Creek Recreation Area. Hikes range from short loop trails to long, linear trails to scenic and remote areas of the lake. The Kinkaid Lake Trail is almost 15 miles long, ideal for serious hikers and equestrians. The Waterfall Trail (3.1 miles) and the Buttermilk Hill Trail (4.5 miles) provide opportunities for shorter day trips. Bicyclists are permitted on Waterfall Trail and on forest roads. The U.S. Forest Service permits primitive camping at least 150 feet off of trails and 150 feet from the lakeshore with a maximum of 14 days. Take time to enjoy the trails during the fall when forest leaves put on a majestic display, or during the winter when snow-covered trails provide an aura of serenity.

On September 22, 2006 a tornado crossed over the Mississippi River from Missouri into the Buttermilk Hill area of the Shawnee National Forest, impacting about 2,450 acres. Portions of the Kinkaid Lake trail system were buried under “blowdown debris.” Debris removal has been ongoing, but trail users should check with the Forest Service to ensure that all trails are open.

The Johnson Creek Recreation Area, which is part of the Shawnee National Forest, offers fun for the entire family with a beach and swimming area, beach house, picnic area with shelters and grills, two paved boat launches, fishing pier, trailhead, group camping, and equestrian camping with parking to accommodate horse trailers. The campground and boat launches are open year round. (Campers should be aware that camping is not permitted on any property owned by the Illinois CNR.) The beach is open from May 1 through Labor Day. The beach area provides three miles of no-wake recreation without lifeguard supervision. The boat ramps provide water access to boaters, water skiers, jet skiers, kayakers, and canoeists. The Paul Ice Recreation Area, located at the eastern end of Kinkaid Lake, also provides picnic facilities, restrooms, and playground equipment.

The Crisenberry Dam area, known as “The Spillway,” is a popular recreation area. When Kinkaid Lake levels are high, water spills over and through the sandstone rock, providing many picturesque photo opportunities. There are picnic tables, grills, and toilet facilities at the bottom of the spillway. The waterfalls can be dangerous during periods of heavy rain, but when water flows moderate, sitting on the rocks under the waterfalls is a favorite Kinkaid Lake activity.

The Kinkaid Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area offers 3,100 acres of hunting for deer, dove, turkey, quail, waterfowl, squirrel, rabbit, and woodcock. The oak and hickory terrain surrounding the lake provides an ideal habitat for deer and turkey. Convenient access to prime hunting is from the Johnson Creek Recreation Area; however, hunting is prohibited within 150 yards of the recreation area. Check with the Illinois DNR for all hunting regulations.

Kinkaid Lake promises fun and relaxation for the entire family, so start planning your trip to this recreational gem in the Shawnee National Forest.

Things to do at Kinkaid Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Forest
  • Playground

Fish species found at Kinkaid Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Kinkaid Lake Photo Gallery

Kinkaid Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Surface Area: 2,350 acres

Shoreline Length: 73 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 413 feet

Average Depth: 33 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

Water Volume: 78,500 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1972

Water Residence Time: 1.7 years

Drainage Area: 62 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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