6 Summer Activities on the Chain’s Trails, Parks, and Lake Docks

Kick Off Summer on the Chain O’Lakes Campgrounds, Lake Docks, and More

In Chicago’s time zone, the summer solstice this year falls on June 20th at 11:24pm. That means the official start of summer on the Chain O’Lakes is right around the corner! A whole season of warm breezes, cold beers, and good times. So, how are you going to enjoy it? Unhitching your boat from the lake docks and riding the waves? Taking your family out on a camping trip along one of the Chain’s many nature trails? Heading out for some hunting or fishing?

To help you plan out your summer, we’ve collected some suggestions. Enjoy this list of outdoor summer activities on the Chain’s lake docks, nature preserves, and parks!

Camp at Chain O’Lakes State Park

There’s nothing that captures the essence of summer quite like camping. That’s when you really get to fully take in all the warmth and activity the season brings to nature. You can’t go camping without a good campsite, though. Luckily, there’s no shortage of scenic places to go camping on the Chain O’Lakes!

Chain O’Lakes State Park features two Class A-Premium camping areas and three Class B-Premium camp areas. These total 151 campsites and 87 campsites, respectively. You can reserve sites, cabins, and shelters. Electricity, picnic tables, grills, and fire extinguishers are provided, so you can get a cookout going with minimal hassle. There’s even an additional youth group camp area that accommodates up to 150 youths.

Visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website for details on accommodations, permits, and pricing.

Watch Fireworks from Lake Docks and Picnic Blankets

There’s one huge reason the Fourth of July is summer’s biggest holiday: fireworks! Don’t settle for just one day of fireworks, though. You can’t legally buy consumer fireworks in Illinois, but there are plenty of officially sanctioned displays scheduled throughout the summer. Townships, festivals, and other groups organize fireworks for festivals all around the Chicagoland area.

Some of these festivals celebrate everything that particular town has to offer. Lakemoor Fest, for example, celebrates the town of Lakemoor. It features a carnival rides, food, a flea market, live entertainment, and more. Others promote a particular organization or business that helps put on the fest. For example, Dockers restaurant in Fox Lake hosts an annual Venetian Night. Attendees dress their boats up for a Venetian-style boat parade, eat and dance at a block party, and then watch fireworks from the lake docks.

There are many such events where you’ll be able to watch fireworks around the Chain O’Lakes this summer. Visit our list of fireworks displays for some suggestions!

Try Hunting and Archery

If you’re looking for a way to practice some marksmanship, then you’re in luck. Chain O’Lakes State Park features many spots where you can hunt or do some target practice.

Registered hunters will find dove, waterfowl, and pheasant in ample supply. You can even hunt deer with a bow and arrow here. Alternatively, bow fishing is also legal in Illinois. You just need to have a current Illinois fishing license and stick to rough fish only. You even have the option of doing it from shore, lake docks, or even a boat!

If that’s not your thing, though, don’t worry. You can get plenty of practice loosing arrows without hurting any animals. The archery range on Rt. 173 just west of the Fox River is open until sunset all hunting season. A great way to improve your aim!

Go Boating and Fishing on the Water

Of course, one of the best things to do during the summer is get out onto the lake and enjoy the water. If you’re a boat owner, it’s time to go down to those lake docks, launch your boat, and ride those waves!

The Chain O’Lakes features ten lakes connected by the Fox River, as well as another five lakes connected by various smaller canals and channels. This gives you a broad selection of spots to choose from. Make a habit of trying out different launch points. Explore all the different sights and boating experiences the Chain has to offer!

While you’re out there (or while sitting on some lake docks or other places onshore), you can also do some fishing. With more than 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline, there’s an endless number of fishing spots for you to investigate.

The lakes are home to a wide variety of fish, including both smooth and rough species. Here are some highlights:

Largemouth Bass

With these all-season feeders, depth is more important than time. They seek shelter on those bright summer days, so look for spots where they might be hiding. Drop your bait in those spots. When it’s dark out, they also like to patrol the shoreline. A flashlight helps in these circumstances.


You can catch these fish easiest during their spawning runs, but that’s only legal in late April and early May. Now that we’re past that point, you have to search along the shorelines. Here, they cruise around in schools. They also hide out in marshlands. If you’re looking to catch a big trophy walleye, they hide in deep holes during the day. You can get them with a jig, but not as effectively as waiting for nightfall.


Bullheads most actively feed at night. They’re also strong enough to break your line, but at least you don’t have to fish deep for them. It’s best to focus on lake docks, weed-bed edges, underwater humps, and long tapering points.

Of course, if you’re boating and fishing, you need a good launch point. If you’re lucky enough to have your own lakefront property, then you should absolutely have good quality lake docks installed on your shoreline. That way, you get convenient access whenever you want!

However, there are many different kinds of docks, with different materials and designs best suited for different shorelines and uses. You want a professional to help guide you through your decision. Captain Rod’s Boat Lift and Pier Services has been installing and repairing boat lifts, seawalls, and lake docks on the Chain O’Lakes for over 15 years. Give us a call at (815) 759-9134 and get your dock installed soon so you can make the most of summer 2017!