This report is not about an Indiana destination, but Kickapoo State Park near Danville, Illinois isn’t far over the western state line, and it is just a few minutes from I-74 so it is very easy to get to. Park entry is free, there are opportunities for many different types of recreation, and in my book all those factors add up to a great destination within easy driving distance.
In addition to 22 deep water ponds ranging in size from 0.2 to 57 acres that offer plenty of boating and fishing opportunities, the park has areas for camping, hunting, hiking, mountain biking and scuba diving.
The area was once a strip mine, but the 2,842 acre park has rebounded from that ugly past and the hills are now revegetated, and the waters have cleared.
We visited on Labor Day with the intent of paddling the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River (a state and federally designated Scenic River) but low water levels didn’t allow for that, so we went with the backup plan at Kickapoo State Park. Access the river gauge online here
We paddled on the appropriately named Clear Pond, and the not-so-appropriately named “Inland Sea”. The two lakes are connected by a small channel under a foot bridge at the north end of Clear Pond. The interesting part of this little trip was finding the channel between the two; the north end of Clear Pond is separated into many channels formed during the strip mining days and we had to wind around a little and look for it, but you can paddle through a lot of these small channels and add some variety to your trip.
The roads within the park are well-marked, and easy access to the water is provided via 12 launch areas on nine of the lakes. Clear Pond has a double concrete ramp with bank space to one side to launch a canoe or kayak. (Remember kids, the part of a concrete ramp that’s under water is really slick, as one member of our party found out when he stepped out of a boat , then slid all the way to the bottom) Fortunately no phones or wallets were harmed in the production of that little bit of humor. There were several fishing boats on the water, but they are only allowed to use electric motors.
The Kickapoo State Park park website does list a canoe/kayak/tube rental operation, but I spoke to the owner and his lease has been terminated, so rentals may not be available. More information on the park is also available at stateparks.com