Lake Sara, Illinois, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Illinois - Central -

Also known as:  Sara Reservoir

Lake Sara – a refreshing oasis in central Illinois! What does a community like Effingham Illinois do when they run out of water? They build a reservoir like Lake Sara. Located in the Central Region of Illinois, Effingham County, like much of the Midwestern prairie has limited surface water. In 1949, the local Saint Anthony’s Hospital caught fire and burned, partially due to a shortage of water to fight the fire. The resultant loss of 70 lives helped bring about fire codes nationwide.

When the drought of 1952-1955 hit, their small reservoir quickly proved to be unequal to the task of keeping the area supplied with water. Something would have to be done. Community leaders faced the fact that other water sources must be found to ensure community growth and prevent future fires and crop failures. The Effingham Water Authority was formed and a location secured to impound the soon-to-be-born Lake Sara. A dam was constructed across Blue Point Creek, a tributary eventually emptying into the Little Wabash River. When completed in 1957, the new Lake Sara covered 840 acres with 27 miles of shoreline. Effingham now had water – and the community a great recreational opportunity which they quickly took advantage of.

The area around Lake Sara was historically one of the areas of Illinois to be settled early. In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson laid the plans and signed the legislation for the first and only federally funded interstate highway. Begun in 1811 in Cumberland, Md, the Cumberland Road as it was often called stretched through Illinois as far as Vandalia. Also known as National Road, the future US 40 facilitated settlement into Illinois and by 1814, the first settlers arrived to put down roots along the nearby Little Wabash River. With the National Road leading to Illinois’ first capitol at Vandalia forty miles to the west, and a railroad crossroads at the site, the Effingham area quickly attracted many small businessmen and the makings of a fine small city. Now straddling the junction of two major interstate highways – I-70 and I-57 – Effingham has proven to be an excellent spot to grow a business and raise a family. All that was missing was water recreation; Lake Sara filled that need.

Residential development on leased land began around Lake Sara almost immediately. Located just west of town, Lake Sara was soon the site of marinas, year-round residences, small resorts and campgrounds. A golf course was developed along the lakeshore. Years of scientifically-planned fish stocking has resulted in an excellent fishery: the lake contains black crappie, white crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, longear sunfish, redear sunfish and walleye along with the common bottom dwellers and feeder varieties such as bullhead, warmouth, carp, gizzard shad, golden shiner and grass carp. Fishing tournaments are held here regularly and draw anglers from all over the Midwest. There are no motor restrictions on Lake Sara except for jet skis, making it a favorite of watersport enthusiasts with sailboats, pontoons and powerboats. The lake welcomes those who come for water skiing and tubing as well as those who enjoy canoeing and kayaking the coves of the multi-armed reservoir. A public beach with boat launch area and picnic pavilions is available near the dam. The Girl Scouts maintain a camp along the shore, as do several private campgrounds. There are hiking trails provided for nature-lovers to enjoy birding and plant life. An active lake users group has provided improvements such as bank stabilization projects and shoreline improvements in recent years. Clearly this is a much-loved lake, and with good reason.

A visit to Lake Sara need not be limited to water-focused activities: the City of Effingham has plenty to keep the visitor busy. Three city parks provide a skate park, including ramps and fun box, picnic areas with pavilion, lighted ball diamonds and tennis courts, playgrounds, gymnasiums, an outdoor swimming complex, a tree walk, a miniature golf course and more. The entire area is a popular antiquing destination and most types of shopping are available in the several malls and national chain stores. The area is well-supplied with restaurants from fast-food to pizza to elegant dining. The annual Sculpture on the Avenues project brings an array of artwork to Downtown Effingham and features some of the Midwest’s best known and unknown sculptors. Nearby Teutopolis contains the Monastery Museum, the preserved history of the Franciscan priests who ministered to this German Catholic community founded in 1838. The MY Garage Corvette Museum contains one-of-a-kind and vintage Corvettes and thousands of pieces of Corvette history and memorabilia. Anyone with a farm background or interest in steam-powered machinery is sure to enjoy Ben Winter’s Steam Engine Museum in nearby Altamont. Those with an interest in early American history will enjoy a visit to the Vandalia State House, 40 miles away in Vandalia. Serving as the Illinois Capitol fro 1820 to 1839, Abraham Lincoln served in the legislature here after the State House was built in 1836.

Ballard Nature Center a few minutes west of Effingham holds miles of wooded trails and dozens of species of birds in their natural setting. Alwerdt’s All-American Selection Display Garden just south of Altamont will delight gardening enthusiasts with it’s six acres of display plants and shrubs. And, the spectacular Cross at the Crossroads stands nineteen stories tall along side Interstates 70 and 57.

Visitors to Lake Sara will find vacation rentals plentiful in the area. Often, private homes are available as vacation lodgings on a weekly basis. Some commercial lodgings are available along the lakefront. Bed-and-breakfast facilities are located in several nearby communities, often along the historic National Road. The City of Effingham boasts over 1000 hotel rooms along the interstates. Little vacant land for development still exists along the lakefront, but there is often real estate available in the form of existing homes. Only 100 miles east of St Louis, the Effingham area is convenient to travelers heading west or south to St Louis or Memphis or those heading north to Chicago. Lake Sara is convenient for a Midwestern vacation and a great place to locate a summer cottage. Enjoy the family atmosphere at Lake Sara – Effingham will welcome you!

Things to do at Lake Sara

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Birding
  • City Park
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Miniature Golf
  • Antiquing
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Sara

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Grass Carp
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Shad
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye
  • Warmouth
  • White Crappie

Lake Sara Photo Gallery

Lake Sara Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Effingham Water Authority

Surface Area: 840 acres

Shoreline Length: 27 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 581 feet

Average Depth: 16 feet

Maximum Depth: 52 feet

Water Volume: 12,007 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1957

Water Residence Time: 1.8 yrs

Drainage Area: 12 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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