Visitors Guide
Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup - Set Up Camp

Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup - Set Up Camp

Posted on 06/15/2021 by Andy Waterman

Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. Since June is National Camping Month, this week’s topic is all about some awesome spots to camp throughout the southern region of the state!


Benton/West City

Benton / West City is located just south of Rend Lake, one of Illinois’ largest man-made lakes.  The Rend Lake Visitors Center offers many things to make your camping experience the very best! Walk through a native plant garden, visit the exhibition hall with a working honey bee hive, and an area of live reptiles, fish and more! This beautiful center is handicap accessible.The Visitor Center near the west end of the dam is the perfect start to any visit to the Rend Lake area. It offers extensive Rend Lake area information provided by the staff along with free brochures. The Army Corp. of Engineers manage and maintain 4 different camping areas around the lake. All campgrounds provide drinking water, dump station, and restroom and shower accommodations. *handicap accessible campsites and  facilities are available.  Rend Lake offers anything from primitive camping to RV camping.  With 22 miles of bike/walking trails, beaches, disc Golf, Kayak trails, mountain bike trails and a brand new Archery Complex you will not get bored.  If you have a boat bring it along because Rend Lake offers Multiple boad ramps along with a marina that has boat rental available.  For more information check out the Rend Lake Visitors Center at this link - Rend Lake Visitors Center. If you are looking for a smaller, more intimate camping experience, Benton KOA is open year round. This location is easy, convenient, and has large sites with cable TV, and food service! For more information visit the following link - Benton KOA Journey. If You're looking for a quiet place to relax in a beautiful setting, and now you have found it — Rend Lake Cabins in the Woods. You'll find comfortable cabins with a memorable destination for all the fresh air, expansive views and peaceful surroundings you're craving. These facilities include a store, a newly renovated swimming pool with three large concrete steps for easy access when entering or leaving the pool. There is also a large pavilion for family gatherings, group gatherings or rallies which has several picnic tables and a fire pit. For more information and pictures, check them out on Facebook here - Facebook page. For campers who’d like more comfort, Rend Lake Resort offers luxury lakeside cabins.  The Buck and Bass Cabins are situated in the heart and beauty of Rend Lake.  Buck and Bass Cabins are handcrafted and outfitted to accommodate you if you come to fish, hunt, golf, boat, tour local wineries, or to simply get away and relax. Contact for more information.



June 20th marks the first ‘official’ day of summer… but by now, most of us are already fully-engulfed in the hustle and bustle of the busy summer season. With little league practices, barbecues to attend, outdoor concerts planned… you might just be craving a laidback, slow-paced weekend spent enjoying the great outdoors. Indulge your cravings by booking a weekend away at one of Effingham’s picturesque campgrounds. Camp Lakewood, for example, offers 19 acres of RV camping, 75 wooded campsites and two fully-furnished cabins with all the amenities. Nestled on the shores of Lake Pauline, Camp Lakewood appears off the beaten path, but is just minutes away from restaurants and other local attractions. If you’re planning on a full weekend of relaxing, lake-side, check out Lake Sara Campground. Located near several Lake Sara attractions – including Lake Sara Beach, Cardinal Golf Course, a live music venue, a disc golf course, an outdoor, beachy restaurant, “Pinky’s,” and its downstairs neighbor, and full-service bar, “The Rusty Reel” – you’ll find you’re just a short walk away from paradise. Check out boat and kayak rental opportunities, nearby, if you’re looking for a bit of adventure! Just minutes away from Lake Sara Campground, is Anthony Acres Resort. This wooded, fishing resort has been family-owned and operated for over 30 years. As such, they have perfected the art of true relaxation. Immerse yourself in the shady tree groves or take in the beautiful lake views… Cabin rentals are offered in one, two and three-bedroom units and are completely furnished with linens, towels, coffee makers, dishes and utensils, heating and AC, cable TV and more. Whatever your camping style may be… rugged, glamorous, or somewhere in-between… visit Effingham, a destination where we’ve turned ‘doing nothing’ into an art form. For more information on camping in Effingham, visit


Downstate Illinois


There are certainly no shortage of places to camp in Downstate Illinois. Within our 22-county coverage area, dozens upon dozens of sites are available. The question is, what sites provide a great attraction or experience nearby? In Randolph County, we highly recommend a stay at the Fort Kaskaskia Campgrounds. You can wake up with a fantastic sunrise over the confluence of the MIssissippi and Kaskaskia Rivers, and witness an awesome sunset from that exact perch. Plus, you have great hiking at Piney Creek Ravine nearby as well as the sights of Popeye the Sailor Man in Chester, and much more! Right off of Interstate 64 lies the Grayville / I-64 KOA Holiday, which provides so many awesome amenities - it’s camping on steroids! This location has cabins, RV sites, and tent sites for folks to choose from. On top of that - there is a saloon, an electronic shooting gallery, 27 holes of mini-golf, a playground for the kiddos, and much more! Not far north is Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County, a GREAT place for a hike to experience one of the last remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi River. In Clark County, folks love to stay at Lincoln Trail State Park. There are two Class A campgrounds, as well as a Class C campgrounds for tent campers - so there is something for every explorer at this site. There are great trails here to hike or bike on, and it’s not far away from the communities of Marshall and Casey - amazing towns where you can check out the World’s Largest Gavel, or climb up inside the World’s Largest Mailbox. Have fun camping!

*Photo Credit - @twobiketravel on Instagram




A favorite campground in Southern Illinois is found at Fort Massac State Park.  Situated in the middle of the park, this picturesque setting provides a serene relaxation station with plenty of adventures to find.  The campground has 50 A vehicular campsites, complete with electricity, a disposal station and a brand new 8 unit shower house.  The campground also has all new asphalt paved roads and 25 new camping pads.  The improvements don’t stop there.  The drainage system has also been improved as well as new lighting at the dump station.  Coming soon, visitors will be able to rent one of 5 newly constructed cabins that sleep 6 in each.  Reservations for camping can be made at  Once you are at your site you can enjoy all the things Fort Massac State Park has to offer including picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, a fully stocked trout pond, and an 18 basket disc golf course that allows you to see the entire park while you play.  


Mt. Vernon


Summer is for full days of fun, late sunsets and evenings by the campfire and Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County, Illlinois have the perfect place for you! Just west of the I-64/I-57 interchange at exit 95 is Archway RV Park. Cabin rental, Pod Glamping, onsite RV rental and tent sites are avaialbe as well as accomodations for any size RV, large or small.  Other ammenites include: Dog run with exercise field, Fishpond (Catch and release only. Sorry, no swimming). Full hookups, Pull-through and back-in sites, Wi-Fi, Meeting Room, Showers with handicap access, Laundromat, Kitchen, Playground, Icehouse machine, and more! Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area, just 20 minutes south of Mt. Vernon on beautiful 19,000 acre Rend Lake, has 17 tent sites to accommodate primitive campers who relish a rustic outdoor experience and 243 modern campsites for those who want a few more amenities including electrical hookups and sanitary facilities. There are three shower buildings are available for campers. Outdoor recreation enthusiasts interested in water sports, horseback riding, picnicking or hiking will find that Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area has plenty to offer. The site also provides ample opportunities for birders, wildlife observers and photographers, fishing tournaments, pleasure boaters, water skiers and anglers. Rend Lake is well-known as an outstanding sport fishery for white and black crappie, particularly in the early spring, as well as excellent fishing for largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill. Seasonal hunting programs attract thousands of hunters annually to Wayne Fitzgerrell SRA, which is also a popular destination for sporting dog training field trials.Regardless of where you camp in Jefferson County, you will want to make time to visit the Aquatic Zoo Water Park, Nu Bowl Lanes and some of the more than 50 restaurants and numerous boutiques and specialty shops in Mt. Vernon!  Also be sure to check out events at The Granada Theatre and Cedarhurst Center for the Arts while you are in town!


Southernmost Illinois 

Camping is a wonderful way to broaden your horizons and push yourself out of your comfort zone. There are several options in Shawnee Forest Country for large and small RVs, yurts, camping cabins, car camping as well as tent and backpacking. There are state parks, Shawnee National forest sites and privately owned campgrounds near hiking & biking trails across Southernmost Illinois for groups of all sizes and ages. Giant City, Ferne Clyffe, Dixon Springs, Cave In Rock, and Fort Massac are popular state park options. The Shawnee National Forest also offers locations that take your breath away. Shawnee Campground is an easy access, centrally located, full hook up campground with pull through sites located in Vienna and is family owned. For additional locations and ideas, visit or call 1-800-C-IT-HERE



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