Wonder Lake, Illinois, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Illinois - Chicagoland -

Wonder Lake is the 830-acre centerpiece of a planned lakefront community in the Chicagoland area of Illinois. That was the vision of developers in 1929 when they built a small dam across Nippersink Creek 50 miles northwest of the Loop. The lake is home to several thousand residents and their guests along the seven-mile shoreline. The community of Wonder Lake is served by public transportation, and a commute to metro Chicago makes accessing employment, entertainment and shopping easy.

Wonder Lake is actually a bit larger than the plans originally called for; an apparent surveying error allowed another low-lying area to be flooded as the lake filled. Nippersink Creek flows over the dam spillway on its way to join the Fox River Chain of Lakes a few miles downstream. The entire lake is shallow, with an average depth of six-and-a-half feet. The greatest depth is located at the dam. Several small islands dot the lake and provide nesting areas for birds and shelter for fish. All sorts of water sports are enjoyed in warm weather: water-skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. The Wonder Lake Yacht Club has been in existence for 75 years and sponsors sailboat races regularly, with C Scow racing their particular specialty. In winter, ice fishing and ice skating draw lakelubbers away from the fireplace. A commercial marina serves lake residents with boat repairs and dock space as well as launching larger boats.

Each subdivision around the lake has its own beach area serving those living on back lots. Most also hold a boat ramp for those same residents. Picnic areas are usually included near the beach area so that everyone has access to the water and its cooling breezes. One of the activities that most non-residents are familiar with is the Wonder Lake Water Ski Show Team. Each week during the heat of summer, the public is invited to view the ski team performing stunts and synchronized skiing. With a membership approaching 140 skiers, mostly from the local area, the team has taken numerous water-ski championships.

Several areas around Wonder Lake are protected as game reserves. The Wonder Lake Sportsman’s Club sponsors a variety of fishing tournaments and fund-raisers to facilitate lake clean-up efforts. The sportsman’s club and the Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association work together on lake monitoring and fish stocking. The waters hold smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, muskie, sunfish, catfish and perch, along with rough fish such as carp and bullheads. Although the lake is considered private, many of the fishing tournaments allow teams of fishermen to enter as long as one of them is a resident. One popular annual event geared toward reducing the number of carp in the lake is the Annual Carp Kill, when anglers are allowed to use unusual methods of catching the less-than-desirable fish such as bow fishing.

Downstream from the dam, the 3,400-acre Glacial Park Nature Preserve offers plenty of trails for hiking, cycling, nature observation among the wetlands, and fishing and canoeing on the river. Only a few miles away, the many water features of the Fox River Chain of Lakes provide opportunities for river cruising, camping, and multi-lake boating.

Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association has worked with state and federal agencies to solve problems with increasing weed infestations and sedimentation. Studies show that a large amount of sediment enters the reservoir from the Nippersink Creek watershed and is trapped by the dam. The dam is licensed as ‘run-of-river’, meaning it is a simple spillway with no real way to adjust water flow except in emergencies. The dam protects downriver areas from the sediment but leaves it in the lake instead. The property owners association undertook a massive dredging operation in 2015 to clear out much of the sediment and deepen the lake in some areas. The POA is also working with lakeshore owners to help them reduce sedimentation from erosion along the banks and installing wave reduction rip-rap barriers around the many small islands.

A number of properties along the shoreline regularly rent their homes and cottages on a short-term basis. Most rentals include the use of a boat or canoe. Most cottages on back lots include lake use rights. Lodgings can also be found at the private golf course near the lake and include club privileges. The Village of Wonder Lake has little in the way of commercial lodgings, but offers several restaurants, grocery stores, ‘big box’ department stores and some specialty shops along with medical and service facilities. Less than 10 miles to the south, the City of McHenry provides a few hotels and a wider variety of services. The METRA train system has a station at McHenry, making it easy to get to Chicago to visit museums, shopping opportunities, and world-class entertainment.

If you are visiting the Chicagoland area, stop by some summer Friday night to view the water ski stunts and find out more about this suburban lake. Real estate is always available, with a few buildable lots still existing. And, with a fishing derby several times a month, no angler will ever be bored. Schedule a few days at one of the local vacation properties and see how much fun it would be to become part of the Wonder Lake community.

*Depth statistics may not be current due to sedimentation and on-going dredging.

Things to do at Wonder Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Wonder Lake

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

Wonder Lake Photo Gallery

Wonder Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association

Surface Area: 830 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 803 feet

Average Depth: 6 feet

Maximum Depth: 13 feet

Completion Year: 1929

Lake Area-Population: 10,000

Drainage Area: 97 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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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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