Lake Le-Aqua-na is an artificial lake on 2,300 acres (970ha) in the village of Lewiston, Macoupin County, Illinois. The state park lies adjacent to Peoria National Forest and is managed by the Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Lake Le-Aqua-na was constructed during the 1930s as a recreation area for residents living along the upper Macoupin River. A dam was built across the river at Blue Island, about one mile north of Lewiston. The lake extends downstream approximately two miles beyond the dam site. Construction of the dam created a recreational opportunity not only for local inhabitants but also for forest service workers who were housed nearby at Camp Logan.
During the 1950s, IDNR officials realized that much of the shoreline of Lake Le-Aqua-na could be used for fishing and camping, which are still popular activities. In 1958, the campground opened with 30 sites all located within walking distance of the lake. At this time there was no beach or boat ramp, although plans were made to add these amenities in the future. The campground features 50 amp electric hookups, modern restrooms, showers and dumping stations, plus a trailer dump station. There is a separate group tenting facility with electricity and water. It accommodates up to 100 people. On both the east and west sides of the lake, there are picnic areas shaded by trees around the perimeter of the lake. Fishing is very popular on Lake Le-Aqua-na.
Several endangered species inhabit, nest in, or use the park including the piping plover, least tern, black skimmers, and mud turtles. Lake Le-Aqua-na is recognized nationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA), meaning that it provides important stop over habitat for migrating birds between Canada and Florida. Over 300 bird species have been sighted in the park. Because of its importance, the lake is closed to swimming and boating after dusk. No alcoholic beverages, glass containers, or unlicensed motor vehicles may be brought onto the property. Pets are permitted on leashed grounds, provided they do not disturb nesting birds or cause damage to the environment. The park’s visitor center/nature center features natural history exhibits from various eras and habitats. Programs offered include hayrides, nature walks, holiday events, children’s programs, birding trips, and other special presentations throughout the year.
Lake Le-Aqua-na State Park is a prime location for many different types of campsites. Ranging from Modern to Primitive, waterfront to off-shore, grassy knoll to sand bar, half-moon cove to flat ground, each site presents itself with numerous options for privacy, comfort, and scenery. Half of the campsites are available on a first come first served basis, while the remainder require reservations. Reservations can be booked through the park reservation system online, via phone, or at the park office. Sites are accessible by car, bicycle, foot, and canoe. Boat access is possible from either end of the lake. Electric motors are prohibited on the lake. Sailboats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and any non powered watercraft must display registration from any state or a launch permit from IDNR staff. All boats must be properly registered with any state. Boats are available to rent from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, excluding July and August.
A concession stand is operated at the park, offering food and drink items, ice, and bait. Fish cleaning stations are provided near the beaches. Common game fish include largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, northern pike, bullhead, muskie, channel catfish, sunfish, pumpkinseed, bowfin, white perch, black crappie, and red fox squirrel. These fish are regularly caught by anglers using artificial lures and live minnows, jigs, cranks, spinners, and swivels. Ice fishing takes place mainly in January, February, and March, when the thickness of the ice is usually 4 inches (10cm) or more. Access to the ice house where the fish are kept until sold is open year round, though the door is locked during the winter months. Hunting is allowed on about 1,100 acres (450ha) of Lake Le-Aqua-na State Park. White tail deer, waterfowl, and rabbits may be hunted legally with a license from IDNR. The hunting of groundhogs is prohibited. Hunters should follow the rules and regulations of the Illinois Game Commission.
Lakeview Beach is the primary entry point for hunters because it is the only public access area with parking. Two additional parking lots are available just past the entrance gate. Inside the park, there are three main trails leading out of the woods toward the lake, totaling about 3 miles (4.8km): Aquila Trail (.25 mile), Hawk Point (.3 mile), and McCoy (.5 mile). About 600 acres (240ha) of land surrounding the lake are dedicated to hunting. Controlled hunts take place periodically throughout the year to manage whitetail deer populations. Lake Le-Aqua-na State Park has four designated wilderness areas (DWA): Northeast Bay, Northwest Bay, Inner Cove, and Outer Cove. Each DWA contains at least one trail leading away from the lake, providing multiple opportunities for hiking and cross country skiing.
The park also includes Peoria Nature Preserve, a smaller parcel of woodland inside the park containing mature hardwoods, some rare plants, and animal life such as weasels, moles, otters, and bobcats. This preserve is home to the largest contiguous old-growth oak tree in southern Illinois, a towering figure known locally as the “Hercules” tree, which measures 25 feet (7.6m) in height and whose girth reaches 40 feet (12m) in diameter. The park also manages a Youth Tenting Facility, which allows young people aged 12 to 17 years to experience outdoor camping without requiring them to bring their own tents.
Lakeview Beach is a favorite spot for family and friends to enjoy the weather, the outdoors, and each others company. There is ample room for everyone to spread out and enjoy the shade of the trees and the beautiful view of the lake. Kayaking is another great way to get around the lake. Rentals are available beginning in late May and ending mid September. Half Moon Cove, Sand Bar, and Peoria Nature Preserves are frequently visited by scuba divers exploring the underwater world of the lake. Lake Le-Aqua-na State Park has become a prime destination for mountain bikers looking to ride the scenic back roads of IL. With over 200 miles (320km) of single track riding, the park offers something for every level biker.
Popular activities are:
Other wildlife observed at the park include:
- nutria rats
- cottontail rabbit
- eastern gray squirrel
- wild turkey
- pileated woodpecker
- barred owl
- screech owl
- yellow-billed cuckoo
- common looper
Lake Le-Aqua-na offers excellent habitat for:
- largemouth bass
- northern pike
- channel catfish
- white perch
- black crappie
Birds of prey found in the vicinity of the park include:
- bald eagle
- golden eagle
- red-tailed hawk
- prairie falcon
- red kite