Jubilee College State Park is an undeveloped state park in the town of Channahon, Will County, Illinois. The park was named after Dr. Martin J. Duke’s children’s hospital, which was located at its current site from 1924 to 1943 before moving to Bolingbrook. The park features hiking trails, picnic areas, and access to waterfowl hunting during parts of autumn. A bird sanctuary has been established within the park grounds.
Visitors can also see some remnants of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that worked in this area during the Great Depression. Their presence can be seen by the large stone fire tower near the main parking lot. This structure is one of only three CCC towers remaining in Illinois. There are four additional buildings here that form what may become a museum of regional history. These include the former duke children’s hospital, the CCC recreation hall, the custodian’s house, and the doctor’s office. The park is surrounded by farm fields tended by very young people who live in nearby villages. They come each morning to plow, sow, weed, and harvest their crops. On weekends they return to their village to help with local events like corn maze competitions. During the week they attend school or work in neighboring towns. The park is accessible via train or bus from Union Station.
Metra Electric service is available along most of the route served by the Rock Island line between Oglesby and Joliet, although not currently scheduled to serve Jubilee directly. As of February 2016, no Amtrak service is offered; however, through tickets are accepted for those traveling to/from the station. No campgrounds are provided, but camping facilities are available at Camp Aurora State Park, about 5 miles away. The park receives few visitors, and when they do show up they tend to stay in the parking lot overnight because there are no amenities. Some stay in tents, while others drive into the adjacent forest and set up campers. Occasionally police search the vehicles for drugs or alcohol, since the park is known among drug users and dealers as “The Place Where the Wild Things Are.” Police make random patrols around the perimeter of the park. Because of this, visitors should exercise caution if entering the park, especially at night. The park offers approximately 200 campsites, many of which are heavily used.
Most sites feature electric hookups and running water. Modern restrooms and showers are provided throughout the park, though water and restroom facilities are not currently available at the Riley Unit. Camp Aurora State Park accommodates both tent campers and RVs. It provides modern comfort stations with showers and flush toilets, hot water, and electricity. Toilets and showers are free all year long, though electricity costs apply from May until September. Tent camping is allowed any time, though space is limited. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are available for self-registration on a first-come, first-served basis.
Camping is not allowed inside the Riley Unit. Instead, camper registration takes place in the overflow parking lot across the street from the prison. Only out-of-state residents and nonresidents age 18 & older are eligible to register. Registration requires proof of age (ID) and proof of insurance (valid driver’s license). Upon successful completion of the registration process, a permit will be issued indicating whether you have full or partial coverage under your policy. If half or less of the campsite value is covered, the remainder must be paid in cash upon arrival.
In 1945, a new facility was built on a different part of the same piece of property. That building still stands and houses the O’Brien Medical Center. After it closed in 2002, the old facility became home to the first two years of college education for more than 2,000 students at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. They were joined by other schools including Columbia University, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Loyola Marymount University, Southern Methodist University, and Washington University. While these programs ended with the 2008 season, the park remains open to recreational use.