Visitors Guide to the
Horseshoe Lake
State Recreation Area
3321 Highway 111
Granite City, IL 62040

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Wildlife Viewing Accessible Fishing Opportunities Boat Ramp Hunting Accessible Restrooms

Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area is located on Highway 111 in southern Madison County, Illinois, and is situated on a low flood plain called the American Bottom which follows the Mississippi River down to the Kentucky border. Rivers never follow the same path over extended periods of time and oxbow lakes are formed by the isolated sections created when rivers change direction and cut new channels. Horseshoe Lake was formed in this manner centuries ago and is one of two large oxbow lakes that can be found in Southern Illinois. Only about 10 minutes away from downtown St. Louis, the park offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities on 2,960 acres.

Human habitation in the area dates back as far as 8,000 B.C. during the Archaic Period. Artifacts have also been found which are from the Woodland Period of 1000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D. during which Horseshoe lake provided an excellent source of fish, game, waterfowl, and wild vegetables. During the Mississippian Period, the first real civilization in North America developed at nearby Cahokia. Cahokia was the center of commerce, social and political power for the region and had a population of 30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. Cahokia was famous for its elaborate burial and tribal rituals that culminated in the building of giant earthen mounds. The remains of an earthen platform mound built by this civilization can be found on Walker Island.

The main feature of the park is its 1800-plus acre oxbow lake. The western portion of the lake is considered to be the best area to find crappie. Anglers looking for bass should stick to north and south ends. The lake’s three foot depth which makes it ideal for bluegill and channel catfish can also be found. Boat fishing is allowed except during waterfowl season and a 50-horsepower limit exists for all watercraft. The best fishing place is said to be right off the causeway leading to Walker Island. An Illinois fishing license is required.

Bird Watching
Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area is an excellent place for bird watching. It has been said that virtually all species of birds that have been spotted in the state have been seen at one time or another at the Park. In July and August the southern portion of the lake is drained and spread with millet by plane. The resulting mudflats attract many snowy egrets and blue herons in search of clams and snails.

Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area is listed on the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail. They report that the Park is one of the most well known places to see a diversity of herons and egrets. Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons occur in large numbers , especially in July and August. Also watch for Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons. This is an excellent spot to see Eurasian Tree Sparrows as well. Late July and early to mid-August can be good for shore birds on the south pool at the causeway when water is pumped out of the pool to encourage moist plant germination. During the fall migration, this is a great place for waterfowl and shore birds, including loons, grebes, and cormorants. In winter, watch for a variety of gulls.

A number of public duck blinds are located on the lake to accommodate hunters during the waterfowl season. Dove hunting is allowed  is on the peninsula off Bend Road during September. Controlled pheasant hunting is available. Check with the Park Office for details and further regulations.

In addition to the advantages found by being so close to downtown St. Louis, a wide variety of attractions are available to those visiting Horseshoe Lake State Park including the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway, Lewis and Clark Trail Site #1, and the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center.

Visiting Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area
     Open Daily
There is no charge to visit Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area.

Directions: Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area is located on IL-111 between I-55/70 and I-270.

GPS Coordinates
N  38  41.934
W 90  04.048

Learn more about the Granite City and Collinsville areas.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources - official site of Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area. 

Lewis and Clark
State Historic Site
Pere Marquette
State Park
Heritage Project
Lewis and Clark
State Historic Site

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