Lake Thunderbird, Illinois, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Thunderbird — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Thunderbird cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Thunderbird

Nestled in the rural Illinois woods, Lake Thunderbird is set in Putnam County, the smallest county in Illinois. The lake, located on the border of the Northern and Western tourism regions, was originally built in 1970 by the American Central Corporation in response to America’s urbanization. Families sought to escape the big cities for weekend retreats, and creating Lake Thunderbird was the answer.

Set in the Illinois River Valley, Lake Thunderbird’s 115-acre body of water has a maximum depth of 66 feet with an average depth settling around 35 feet. Nearly 500 homes are scattered around the lake’s eight miles of shoreline. The lake has 1,900 total lots, with real estate available, and accommodates anyone looking for a year-round retreat or a vacation rental.

Rolling hills and valleys dominate much of Lake Thunderbird’s landscape, which makes it easy to find activities during any time of the year. Miles of parks and trails entice both hikers and mountain bikers to run or pedal across the winding terrain. Nature walks and playgrounds make for an easy hike with small children who can scamper about while chasing a butterfly.

Those who are members of the Lake Thunderbird Association, or are guests of members, can enjoy the lake’s clubhouse or pristine beach in the summer months. Fire up the grill in the picnic area while the rest of the family splashes about in the sectioned-off swimming area at the lake’s beach, or grab a bite to eat at the “snack shack.” Adrenaline junkies can get their fix by flying across Lake Thunderbird’s shimmering waters while waterskiing, wakeboarding, or tubing. Deck boat and pontoon boat owners proceed at a slower pace but have parties at full swing atop their decks. Trade tips and meet new home owners and vacationers at the southern shore’s boat launch, a busy hotspot during the hot summer months.

If fishing is your forte, slide your boat into the waters at dawn or dusk when other lake activities have settled down. Cast out your fishing line to find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, catfish, channel catfish and muskie in the lake. For those who wait patiently, prize fish, such as a 43-inch tiger muskie that an angler caught one year, can be caught along the rocky shoreline.

It may seem as if Lake Thunderbird is busier during the summer, but as the area cools off and leaves begin to change signaling the end of summer, residents pack on clothes and head outside to continue enjoy the lake’s amenities and its wildlife. Members are able to hunt deer around the lake. Others enjoy hiking through the colorful woods while wild turkey, bald eagles and raccoons quietly make their way through the forest. Songbirds add another dimension to the lake’s atmosphere if one stands quietly to enjoy their symphony.

Anyone wishing to hop out of Lake Thunderbird’s rural atmosphere and into some city life will find the city of Princeton less than 20 miles away. Window browse through specialty shops lined up along downtown or check out festivals and events occurring year round. The town offers a variety of parks and nature trails to keep your muscles moving while traveling.

Closer to Lake Thunderbird is the Miller-Anderson Woods Nature Preserve and Senachwine Lake. The nature preserve is located to the northeast of the lake and encompasses over 300 acres of old-growth oak hickory forest with prairies full of lush vegetation. Senachwine Lake, located seven miles to the east of Lake Thunderbird, is a 3,324-acre lake filled with a variety of fish for anglers and birds for watchers.

Keep Lake Thunderbird in mind as a destination to live year-round or to simply escape the fast pace city life. The lake offers ice skating and cross country skiing during the winter, while summer provides clean beaches for suntanning and open waters for canoeing, waterskiing or fishing.

Things to Do at Lake Thunderbird

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Playground

Fish Species Found at Lake Thunderbird

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

Find Places to Stay at Lake Thunderbird

If you’re considering a Lake Thunderbird lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Thunderbird Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Thunderbird lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Thunderbird Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Lake Thunderbird Association

Surface Area: 115 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 591 feet

Average Depth: 35 feet

Maximum Depth: 66 feet

Water Volume: 4,025 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1970

Lake Area-Population: 500

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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