Little Grassy Lake, Illinois, USA

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

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All About Little Grassy Lake

Surrounded by watchful forest trees and open grasslands, the Little Grassy Lake is a quiet body of water sitting in the middle of a Southern Illinois wildlife refuge. The Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge consists of over 40,000 acres of fields, woods and waters, attracting visitors from all around to come romp in the midst of its beauty.

Visitors have miles of hiking and horseback riding trails to enjoy. Families will relish hours spent camping and picnicking, swimming, boating and water-skiing. Thousands of acres are open to hunting seasons with a plethora of large and small game including deer, waterfowl, wild turkey, rabbit, squirrel, quail, woodchuck, dove, woodcock, snipe, crow, raccoon, opossum, fox and coyote. Hunters use muzzleloaders, archery, shotguns and pistols. There are lots of opportunities for viewing wildlife in the refuge. Various trails, auto tours, pull-off areas, observation blinds and viewing decks help to facilitate the enthusiast’s curiosity about life and offer photographing opportunities.

Other facilities are complete and include campgrounds, boat ramps, fishing piers, beaches, picnic areas, a visitor center, and an environmental education complex. There are also five youth camps that retreat on Little Grassy Lake, where unique activities, such as mushroom-picking, are offered in the wilderness area. Last, but not least, one of the biggest attractions of Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge is its water. Little Grassy Lake is one of three manmade lakes in the refuge; the other two are Crab Orchard Lake and Devil’s Kitchen.

Little Grassy Lake was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Soil Conservation Service. Had it not been for World War II, which stalled plans for the lake, it would have been finished years earlier. The lake was part of the Resettlement Administration’s original Crab Creek Project before the project was transferred to the war department. After the war, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge came into existence in 1947, before completion of Little Grassy Lake in 1951.

The 1,000-acre reservoir, created for recreation, is primarily a fishing lake. A 10-horsepower limit reduces noise and disturbance on Little Grassy Lake’s serene waters, creating a more favorable environment for sport fishers. The lake has high-quality bluegill, redear, and largemouth bass and also a channel catfish fishery. The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service aims to enhance all of these fisheries and monitors the lake via annual surveys. Please note that fish caught between 12 and 15 inches must be released.

Immediately to the south of Little Grassy Lake is the Giant City State Park located within the Shawnee National Forest. The Forest spans 273,000 acres of flora and fauna, wilderness trails, waterfalls, swimming, bicycling, scenic drives, and archaeological sites. Attractions at the Giant City State Park include hundreds of species of wildflowers and gigantic sandstone bluffs with corridors running through them (hence the name “Giant City”). The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is accessible from Carbondale, the “capital” of Southern Illinois. The city lies just a few miles northwest of the lake and offers great dining as well as cultural and historical excursions. The small village of Makanda offers an annual spring Makanda Fest and fall Vulture Fest, two festivals of great fun, food, music and crafts.

Although there are retreat cabins offered on Little Grassy Lake, visitors will find a diversity of options for vacation rentals in the surrounding towns. Real estate possibilities also exist, whether in Carbondale, Marion, Makanda, or Cambria. Find the home of your dreams in the vibrant communities of the Midwest, or spend your vacation splashing the waters of Little Grassy Lake with a whole world of awe-inspiring nature and wildlife at your fingertips.

Things to Do at Little Grassy Lake

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • State Park
  • National Forest

Fish Species Found at Little Grassy Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Redear Sunfish (Shellcracker)
  • Sunfish

Find Places to Stay at Little Grassy Lake

If you’re considering a Little Grassy Lake 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 Little Grassy Lake Vacation

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

Little Grassy Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Surface Area: 1,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 28 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 500 feet

Average Depth: 27 feet

Maximum Depth: 77 feet

Water Volume: 27,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1951

Drainage Area: 15 sq. miles

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