museum grand prairie middle fork campground homer lake interpretive lake of the woods golf rail trail

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve

Link to Lake of the Woods Map

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is a popular site located in a rolling wooded area near Mahomet, Illinois. This beautiful preserve occupies almost 900 acres along the corridor of the Sangamon River. Highlighting Lake of the Woods are several well-known attractions: the Museum of the Grand Prairie (formerly Early American Museum), Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden and Lake of the Woods Golf Course.

The preserve also offers fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking, cross-country skiing, sledding, the HI-Tower Bell Carillon and observation area, building rentals and educational programs.

Hours
Lake of the Woods opens at 7 AM year-round, weather-permitting. Closing times vary:

1st Saturday in April
9 PM
     Peninsula open 24 hrs except restroom closes at 7 PM.
1st Monday in September
7 PM
Monday before Halloween
5 PM
     Peninsula also closes at 5 PM.

Boat Rentals
Rentals of pedal boats, kayaks and rowboats are available Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Hours are 1-7 PM, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and the cost is $6 per half hour. The boat peninsula is located at 101 N. Lake of the Woods Rd, at the intersection of Tin Cup Road and Lake of the Woods Road.

Attractions
Museum of the Grand Prairie
The Museum of the Grand Prairie (formerly Early American Museum) has an extensive collection interpreting 19th- and early 20th-century life in East Central Illinois. Two floors of exhibits present architecture, agriculture, trades and occupations, decorative arts, and childhood and domestic life of the time. Educational programs are offered for all ages throughout the year. Children will especially love the many hands-on opportunities in the Discovery Room. The accredited museum is part of the Illinois Looking for Lincoln program where visitors will learn about Champaign County?s Lincoln.

Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden
Located just south of the museum is the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden, which boasts some of the most beautiful and diverse flora in East Central Illinois. Many couples have exchanged their wedding vows in this colorful setting. Its All-America Selections Display Garden features the newest and best bedding plants. Two special spots within the garden are the award-winning Miriam Davies Memorial Enabling Garden at the very south end of the garden, and the Discovery Garden, which can be found directly south of the museum.

Lake of the Woods Golf Course
A favorite location for golfers is the Lake of the Woods Golf Course, which was designed by Robert Bruce Harris. Besides the award-winning 18-hole regulation course, there is a 9-hole Par 3 course and a practice range. A multi-year renovation was completed recently. Golfers will find revamped fairways, sand bunkers, ponds and teeing grounds, along with paved cart paths and a redesigned entrance. The course continues to maintain its status as a Certified Audubon Sanctuary, one of only two downstate courses to earn this environmentally-friendly distinction.

Hiking and Biking Paths
The 3.3-mile paved Bicycle/Pedestrian Path stretches the entire length of the preserve, winding through grasslands, prairie and wooded areas as well as crossing the Sangamon River on the Lake of the Woods Covered Bridge. The path receives considerable use from walkers, joggers, bikers, rollerbladers and others. There are also grass and woodland trails for visitors to enjoy.

Rayburn-Purnell Woods is an excellent example of an oak-hickory upland forest. The area was acquired by the Forest Preserve District from the Purnell and Rayburn families of Mahomet. The trail that winds through these woods is approximately 0.44 miles long. Use the links below to print a trail guide before your visit.

Rayburn-Purnell Woods Spring Trail Guide
Rayburn-Purnell Woods Fall Trail Guide

Other guides you may want as well are:

Bats at the Covered Bridge
Buffalo Trace Prairie

HI-Tower and Carillon
One of the most impressive and recognizable facilities within the park is the HI-Tower. For more than four decades, visitors have come to climb the six-story stairway to the observation deck where they can see for miles. The tower is named for the founder of the Forest Preserve District, the late H.I. Gelvin. A popular feature of the tower is the bell carillon, which is programmed to play music throughout the day. Children, especially, find the HI-Tower captivating and consider it a "must" for any visit to Lake of the Woods.

* Please note there is no longer a swimming beach at Lake of the Woods. There is still swimming available at our Middle Fork River Forest Preserve in Penfield.