Lake Catatoga, Illinois, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Illinois - Central -

Illinois’ peaceful Lake Catatoga is situated between St. Louis and Springfield, just 15 miles west of the city of Litchfield. This sparkling body of water features a surface area of 66 acres and a dam on its northern end. It is nestled in Macoupin County – named after Macoupin Creek, a strong stream that winds throughout the area. ‘Macopina’ is the Native American word for ‘water lily.’ Indigenous tribes, such as the Peoria and the Cahokia, used to eat the roots of these fragrant plants.

Hundreds of years ago, the lands of modern day Lake Catatoga and Macoupin County were heavily utilized for hunting waterfowl, prairie chicken, and deer. Buffalo and elk were also pursued up until the mid-1700s, when a heavy snowstorm wiped them out in one fell swoop. Artifacts are frequently found in the region to this day, with the oldest specimen dating back ten thousand years. Back then, the area was covered with swampy lakes, marshes and wetlands before settlers drained most of them for cultivation purposes.

Today, Lake Catatoga’s laid-back ambiance and convenient location have established it as a highly desirable place to live and visit. Real estate properties are available. A “no wake” policy is enforced upon the lake, creating safer conditions for swimming and boating. This also keeps the noise level down for residents with lakeside property. These waters are stocked with crappie, walleye, bluegill, catfish and bass; such variety combined with an irregular shoreline make it a phenomenal fishing location.

One of the most fascinating places near Lake Catatoga is Beaver Lake, a 59-acre body of water with nearly two miles of shoreline and an average depth of 10 feet. Just before the turn of the twentieth century, a group of 18 men from Carlinville formed the Beaver Dam Lake Club. They pooled their money and came up with $2,500, which they used to build a dam and raise the lake’s water level. The surrounding lands became a state park in 1947, boasting 425 acres.

Beaver Lake State Park consists of 751 acres. White squirrels, wild turkeys, fox and deer are just a few of the hundreds of species of wildlife found throughout the preserve. Birds like orioles, bluebirds, nuthatches and peewees are common. Leisure activities include hiking the eight-mile trail system, as well as hunting for turkey, deer and squirrel. Ice fishing, cross country skiing, ice skating and sledding are popular during the winter. Camping is a joy year round, as restrooms, fresh water, fire pits, picnic tables, and cabins are available. A concession stand selling bait, snacks and other supplies is open from April to October. The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish and catfish – and it comes as no surprise that fishing is outstanding. Convenient public docks and boat launches serve electric engine boats only.

Each year in the small town of Gillespie, just a short distance from Lake Catatoga, the Annual Black Diamond Days are held. This coal festival celebrates the mining industry, and all who participate in it, with a three-day carnival. Gillespie Lake is composed of two parts – the larger New Gillespie Lake and the smaller Old Gillespie Lake. Together they total about 216 acres.

A great day trip from Lake Catatoga is the Shoal Creek Nature Conservation Area, located east of Island View Lake. The park is comprised of 276 acres of gorgeous prairie, rocky area and forest. Over 700 kinds of plants, 74 pairs of breeding birds and 71 species of butterflies attract outdoor enthusiasts from near and far. The Rotary Trail is an interpretive trail made up of two loops, totaling just under a mile in length. It is named for the Litchfield Rotary Club, an organization that installed numerous bluebird houses along the path.

The Denby Prairie Nature Reserve is also near Lake Catatoga, offering endless fields of tall grass and wildflowers. Hunters should check out the 40-acre Goode’s Woods nature preserve and hunting area. It is situated just above Otter Lake, which offers some of the best muskie fishing in the state.

Whether or not you have an active imagination, at Lake Catatoga it is too easy to envision yourself living in a world before cars, computers or cell phones. Any avenue of exploration undoubtedly leads to a place where Native Americans stood hunting, foraging or simply relaxing hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Let the woes and troubles of modern life melt into the waters of this exceptional Illinois lake.

Things to do at Lake Catatoga

  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Lake Catatoga

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

Lake Catatoga Photo Gallery

Lake Catatoga Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Lake Catatoga Association

Surface Area: 66 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 601 feet

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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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