Lake Centralia, Illinois, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Lake Centralia.

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Lake Centralia visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - Midwest - Illinois - Southern - Southwest -

Illinois’ Lake Centralia is an alluring 400-acre body of water that was constructed in 1910. It is located in the heart of Marion County, a region named after Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion. An enormous 580 square miles of prairie and timberland comprise this prominent province. Considered a part of the state’s Southern and Southwest tourism regions, it is situated nearly equidistant from the Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri borders.

As a part of the watershed by the same name, Lake Centralia is found just eight miles east of the City of Centralia. By 1853 the historic town had established itself as a key player in the coal mining industry, as well as a hub for the Illinois Central Railroad. Today, the Centralia Area Historical Society Museum is dedicated to chronicling the municipality’s fascinating history. The town is also home to the Centralia Carillon; soaring 150 feet above the city, it is one of the largest bell towers in the world.

Water skiing, boating, and fishing are just a few of the numerous diversions suited to Lake Centralia. Sailing and riding pontoons and wave runners are also popular – in fact, one of the lake’s boat launches is located on an inlet known as Waverunner Cove. Golfers never tire of playing the four local courses, and sports lovers adore the Centralia Recreation Complex. This 60,000 square foot structure offers basketball courts, volleyball courts, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Home of the Centralia Barracudas Swim Club, the building also features spectator seating for up to 400 spectators. Additionally, cutting-edge exercise and sports training equipment attracts both residents and visitors alike.

Lake Centralia should not be confused with its much larger western neighbor, the Centralia Reservoir (also known as Racoon Lake). Raccoon Lake is a crucial source of water for surrounding cities and towns – it can produce an incredible five million gallons of water per day at full capacity. The Raccoon Lake Dam, built in 1943, stretches for a formidable 1,480 feet. Boasting 707 acres of surface area and 20 miles of shoreline, this lake is just perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Fishing tournaments for bass, bluegill, crappie and sunfish are frequently held here.

Northwest of Lake Centralia lies what is considered the largest man-made body of water in Illinois. Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Carlyle Lake features an impressive 26,000 acres of surface area chock full of crappie, bluegill, bass, and walleye. It borders the Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area, a park that has also earned itself a “largest in its class” superlative; with a mind-boggling 3,000 acres, Eldon Hazlet is by far the biggest campground in Illinois. Over 800,000 guests visit the preserve each year to take advantage of its phenomenal bird watching, boating, fishing and hunting. A nine-mile trail system is ideal for hiking and wildlife watching, while weekend sailboat regattas draw boat enthusiasts from far and wide. Deer, raccoon, fox and a number of bird species are commonly spotted throughout the park. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, lakeside cottages, picnic areas and electric RV hookups.

Centralia Foundation Park, also situated close to Lake Centralia, is possibly the most peaceful place in Marion County. The reserve is made up of 235 acres of hiking trails, fishing ponds, and woodlands. Two lagoons, ideal for ice skating during the winter, are stocked with catfish, bass and bluegill throughout the summer. Perhaps the area is best known for its annual Balloon Fest, a hot air balloon jamboree held each August. Every year, over 50,000 visitors enjoy the balloon exhibition, which is accompanied by fireworks, craft shows, boat races and live music. Park facilities include the Hall and Sentinel Shelters and an outdoor amphitheater. Conveniently, there is no entrance fee.

With its rich history, various outdoor attractions and original seasonal activities, you truly can’t go wrong at Lake Centralia. The area exudes an all-around cozy, congenial vibe that is downright irresistible to any lake lover.

Custom Lake Centralia house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Lake Centralia

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Centralia

  • Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Perch
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Lake Centralia

The Lake Centralia map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Lake Centralia photo gallery

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Lake Centralia statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: City of Centralia

Surface Area: 400 acres

Completion Year: 1910

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