Lake Lou Yaeger, Illinois, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Illinois - Central -

Also known as:  Lake Lou, Lou Yaeger Reservoir

One of the hidden gems in the central Illinois heartland, Lake Lou Yaeger provides over 1200 acres of recreational enjoyment to residents and visitors alike. Built in 1966 for flood control, recreation and water supply, Lake Lou Yaeger has become a major focus of outdoor activities nearly year round. Stretched along eight miles of the flooded West Branch of Shoal Creek, the lake holds a wealth of coves, inlets and bays with a combined 45 miles of shoreline. Much of the southern portion is residential, graced with year-round homes. The lake is a favorite among visitors from both the St. Louis and Springfield areas who can travel to the lovely swimming beach in less than an hour. Although created for primarily utilitarian purposes, Lake Lou Yaeger has become one of the area’s best-known recreational destinations.

The long expanse of open water makes Lake Lou, as it is fondly called, a boating destination for many visitors. Two marinas along the shore offer boat slips, sell gas and snacks, offer launch facilities, and rent small boats. There are no speed or motor restrictions on the lake, although personal watercraft are restricted to certain hours on the weekends. Some areas are posted ‘no-wake’ zones, reserved for sailing and paddle-sports. All visiting boats must purchase a daily boating permit, available at launch sites. This contributes to Lake Lou Yaeger being one of central Illinois’ favorite locations for water skiing, tubing, and jet skiing. Here water lovers can sail, power boat, pontoon, wake board, canoe, kayak and row. In August, racing boat events are held on the lake. Most private homes have their own docks and swim areas; some even have rather elaborate swim docks and boating decks. Annual local events such as July 4th fireworks and the ‘Lake Lou Triathlou’ bring visitors from Chicago and beyond.

Fishing is a favorite pastime at Lake Lou Yaeger. Owned by the City of Litchfield, the lake is stocked yearly with largemouth bass and hosts several bass club fishing tournaments each summer. The lake also holds a healthy population of crappie, bluegill and catfish. The many coves provide excellent spawning areas for panfish. In 2012 Lake Lou Yaeger was in the news due to fishermen catching two eight-inch pacu in the lake. These tropical fish from the Amazon are often raised in home aquariums and were presumably released from someone’s aquarium as they grew too big for their space. Because pacu are vegetarian members of the same family as the piranha and look much like them, rumors quickly spread that the fish were dangerous. The hysteria was likely advanced by often-repeated ‘old-wives tales’ of huge pacu biting people in other countries. The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources published a press release stating the fish are not dangerous and won’t be able to survive a cold Illinois winter. Anglers are encouraged to report such unlikely catches so the DNR can monitor any exotic fish found in the lake. Fishing and swimming are entirely safe at Lake Lou Yaeger.

The reservoir attracts large numbers of visitors to Milnot Beach swimming area. Equipped with lifeguards, a sand beach area and high-and low-diving boards, the pay beach brings many visitors to enjoy a day of water and sand. The beach house has showers, restrooms and a snack bar. The 266-acre Shoal Creek Conservation Area provides picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, rest rooms and outdoor stoves. Two campgrounds offer both primitive and trailer camping. Trailer pads include hookups, flush restrooms, city water, and free shower facilities. There are horseshoe pits in the shaded campground area. A series of camping cabins are being constructed for placement at Lake Lou. The local school district’s building and trades program is building these cabins for those campers who prefer a more solid structure to tent camping. The park area also allows horseback riding on specified trails; the Blake Lowry Horse Camp is a unique facility that provides oversize campsites for horse owners. The area is open to the public without reservations and provides a camping area with space available for vehicles and horse trailers. City water, night lights, and outhouses are on site. Several miles of horse trails lead from the camp area through the woods surrounding the lake.

Shoal Creek Nature Conservation Area was established in 1990 to provide a great hiking experience with opportunities for birders, botanists, and nature photographers. Over 700 species of plants and over 70 different kinds of butterflies have been identified within the Shoal Creek Conservation Area. Two self-guided nature trails were constructed to observe wildflowers and wildlife in a unique barrens-savanna habitat. Two hiking trails are available, easy enough for a young child while offering a nice scenic walk in the outdoors. The local Rotary Club and the Shoal Creek Volunteers, Inc. help to maintain and preserve this area by monitoring plants and animals. Since 2005, a pair of bald eagles has nested at the lake where their housekeeping efforts can be seen with binoculars from near one of the marinas. The less developed areas along the shoreline are wooded and often allow for glimpses of deer, small mammals, waterfowl and large numbers of birds.

The City of Litchfield is a quiet and historic small town which once was the junction of six railroads. Later, famed Route 66 skirted the town. Besides the usual village amenities, Litchfield also holds several nostalgic locations of interest to Route 66 fans; one is the drive-in theater which has survived the longest on Route 66 in continuous operation. An old diner is still serving meals, and a local winery offers a vintage ‘saloon’ experience with such antique amusements as pinball, darts and a gift shop. Therefore, the occasional rainy or chilly day at Lake Lou Yaeger will quickly become an adventure with nearby local points of interest. Only 45 miles to the north, the Illinois capital of Springfield contains a wealth of historic venues such as the Lincoln Library and Museum, the old State Capitol with costumed interpreter guides, Shea’s Gas Station Museum filled with Route 66 memorabilia, Lincoln’s Home Historic Site with its surrounding neighborhood preserved for posterity, and many more locations pertaining to Illinois’ most famous resident and the achievement of Statehood for the state itself. Both Litchfield and Springfield offer several conventional hotels and other forms of lodgings such as bed-and-breakfasts.

If you thought a central Illinois vacation had little to offer, you obviously haven’t seen Lake Lou Yaeger. The lake provides everything necessary for a fun-filled vacation at a reasonable driving distance from Midwestern cities. Occasionally, visitors may be lucky enough to find a private home to rent directly on the shore of Lake Lou Yaeger. Real estate is often available at Lake Lou, both lakefront and with deeded lake access. So, come for a visit. Bring the boat, the kids and the camping gear.

Things to do at Lake Lou Yaeger

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Drive-in Theater
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Lake Lou Yaeger

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Sunfish

Lake Lou Yaeger Photo Gallery

    Lake Lou Yaeger Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: City of Litchfield

    Surface Area: 1,269 acres

    Shoreline Length: 45 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 592 feet

    Average Depth: 10 feet

    Maximum Depth: 31 feet

    Completion Year: 1966

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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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