Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Some people erroneously think of Chicago as an American state but the truth is, the "Windy City" is only one among the many cities found in Illinois state albeit it is the biggest and the most famous. In any case, Illinois has become one prominent American state thanks largely to the many successes that Chicago continues to reap.

Nevertheless, there is more to Illinois than just Chicago and even the NBA and the legendary Michael Jordan. For one, the state is steeped in history, with an incredible 1,100 historic landmarks under its fold. It also happens to be filled with numerous natural attractions that are the perfect jump-off points for prospective tourists, particularly those who adore the outdoors, which should include RV-boarded travelers. With nearly 500,000 acres devoted to public parks and a shoreline that stretches up to 4,300 miles, Illinois is another great destination for outdoor fun.

The Regions that Make up Illinois

The American state that has been nicknamed "Land of Lincoln" (honoring former US president Abraham Lincoln) is divided into six different regions. These include the Northern Region, the Chicago Region, the Western Region, the Central Region, the Southwest Region, and the Southern Region.

The Northern Region

The Northern Region hosts a wide array of lakes and creeks complemented by many state parks, making the area the ideal outdoor setting for most RV riders. However, for more land-based attractions, visitors will equally be satisfied as the region also boasts of various museums, theaters, markets, and highways that offer insights into local history. The Coronado Theatre in Rockford is a good example of this as it boasts of designs that are fanciful incorporation of styles used in Spanish castles, Chinese dragons, and Italian villas.

For RV-boarded travelers, the place to head off to in Northern Illinois is the Mississippi Palisades State Park, a 2,500 acre headland that offers a great look at the scenic Mississippi River. Several camp sites are found here with activities ranging from hiking to cross-country skiing although the more simple picnicking activity should be quite eventful for most campers since picnic tables abound, along with drinking fountains and shelter houses that trace their roots to 1930 and crafted by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The Chicago Region

The main attraction here is undoubtedly Chicago city with its characteristic shopping and entertainment offerings as personified by such structures as the Gurnee Mills Mall where over 200 prominent retail shops are known to operate, including Liz Clairborne, Gap, 5th Saks, and Fifth Avenue. Entertainment-wise, there are the Serpent Safari Reptile Zoo, the Rink Side Sports, and the Gurnee Marcus Cinema to explore.

There are countless state parks scattered in many areas of the Chicago Region, many of them hosting either modern or primitive camping grounds. For RVers, however, the Illinois Beach State Park ought to be quite appealing as there are about 244 premium sites found within its premises equipped with electric power and the most basic camp amenities. Practically every imaginable outdoor beach activity can be engaged in this state park that covers nearly seven Lake Michigan shoreline miles. Apart from swimming, jogging and biking pursuits are also popular here. A separate place has been assigned for land-based outdoor sports like hiking, particularly within the oak forests of the public park where a vast array of wildlife exists, and picnicking, held north and south of the public park, that comes complete with picnic tables.

The Western Region

Western Illinois is sometimes called river country because it happens to host quite a significant number of river systems, including the Mississippi River, the Illinois River, and the Spoon River with its adjoining valley. Complementing these regional waterways are various museums and public parks that feature many outdoor delights intended to motivate the interests of most RV riders.

RVers will most definitely be enthralled upon taking on the challenge of taking a scenic drive across the Spoon River Valley Scenic Route in Smithfield that covers over 100 miles. Alternatively, they can take a tour of the Riverfront, a large modern all-in-one facility in Peoria consisting of stores, art galleries, museums, entertainment centers, and restaurants all rolled into one and nestled along the Illinois River banks.

For a place to stay at, RVers can take shelter at the Sangchris Lake State Park located in eastern Springfield. The city happens to be the state capital, and the location of the public park affords many RV-boarded travelers convenient access to most of the major activities taking place in Springfield.

There are about two separate campgrounds found inside the Sangchris Lake State Park, a land that encompasses 3,022 acres where boating, fishing, hunting, and simple gatherings are common activities. One provides for relatively longer stays (Deer Run Campground) and offers 130 camp sites while the other one, the Hickory Point Campground, has a total of 67 sites and is set near the boat docking area.

The Central Region

Unlike the central regions of other states where modern life is the typical characteristic, that of Illinois offers something different. Its Central Region is filled with significant American history led by such landmarks as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the University of Illinois, the State Capitol Building, and the Illinois Amish Interpretive Center.

For RV riders looking for outdoor adventure, the region is not actually wanting in its share of attractions. Creeks, lakes, ridges, and state parks actually abound in these parts. Highly recommended, however, is Eagle Creek State Recreation Area in Findlay town with its 56 reservable camp sites.

The area runs parallel to Wolf Creek and together they stand across the waters running along Lake Shelbyville, providing the ideal setting for such water-based recreational activities as fishing, pontoon boating, water skiing, and plain water drifting. It covers a vast 11,100 acres under pristine waters apart from about 250 miles of sandy shorelines. Nearby, an indigenous woodland offers alternative outdoor fun like horseback riding, hiking, and, of course, camping, with picnicking usually prepared on the 2,200-acre wide Eagle Creek State Reservation Area, located west of Lake Shelbyville. A fully developed area intended for picnicking, it comes complete with picnic tables, water, barbecue grills, and even sanitary facilities.

The Southwest Region

Southwest Illinois is teeming with interesting landmarks that should make the area an obvious favorite among its visitors, even those aboard their RVs. For starters, majority of the regional attractions are accessible by land vehicles, including the Madison-based Gateway International Raceway, the venue of the Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Busch, and the historic Fort de Chartres, the oldest structure in Illinois that traces its origins to the period of French colonizers in 1753.

Cahokia RV Parque offers what is perhaps the best campground for RVers in Southwest Illinois. Located in Cahokia town, the RV park is quite close to Gateway International Raceway and to other nearby attractions like St. Louis Zoo and the Riverboat Gambling and Cruises.

The Southern Region

The southernmost tip of Illinois state is surprisingly the region with the most to offer in terms of attractions that should prove to be quite suitable for most RV riders. One can literally choose from several magnificent lakes, national forest parks, and scenic byways where outdoor pleasure can be experienced at its best.

Settle the RV over in one of the 59 camp sites situated at the northern edge of Cave-in-Rock State Park and begin a tour of the regional attractions, including fishing expeditions along Carlyle Lake and hiking ventures on the foot trails of the Cache River State Natural Area in Belknap. Otherwise, get to examine the mystery that lies within the Cave-in-Rock State Park where hikers, anglers, and boaters commonly travel for a satisfaction-guaranteed outdoor fun.

A highlight of the exploration should be a tour of the famous cave that is approximately 55 feet wide and for which the state park was named after. A fine alternate activity, though, would be a picnic camp in one of various shaded picnic sites scattered in various areas of the park where there are provisions for water hydrants, drinking fountains, picnic settings, and barbecue grills.

Illinois Cities

Few American cities can boast of having a diverse line-up of attractions that can be easily accessed by land vehicles like RVs. Illinois cities gladly belong to this unique group, with many of them offering attractions that RVers can easily navigate across or otherwise get to park the vehicle at a nearby location, preferably an RV park.


Nestled on the northern end of Illinois, Galena is a very historic place in the Land of Lincoln being the location of several monumental landmarks like the house built by local residents for Civil War leader and subsequent 18th US president Ulysses S. Grant which still stands today, and the Dowling House, an 1826 mansion made from local limestone.

For RVers interested in seeing the various Galena outdoor attractions, the city also features a good number of public parks where campgrounds are available. The Apple River Canyon State Park, for instance, has 47 sites set up across its 297-acre territory where hunting and hiking activities are regularly engaged in especially since the park hosts various wildlife like raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, deer, eagles, and hawks, apart from innumerable varieties of plants and flowers.


A little-known town in the Chicago Region, Kankakee stands northeast of historic Kankakee Rive, which serves as its major point of interest. The river extends for about eleven miles and falls under the Kankakee River State Park where outdoor enthusiasts are known to converge as they take on various outdoor sports like fishing, canoeing hunting, and hiking. RV travelers are also known to troop to this area regularly, enjoying the 110 wooded camp sites scattered in various places.

Rock Island

This Western Illinois city is the oldest of the so-called Quad Cities and carries several historic sites in its midst. These include an 1854 railroad that was the first one to extend up to the Mississippi River and the Black Hawk State Historic Site where a village once existed that was the former home of Sauk Indians.

A chief attraction of Rock Island is the Rock Island Trail State Park covering around 26 miles of land where outdoor actions like biking, hiking, and even cross country skiing are known to regularly take place. RV-boarded tourists will find the area interesting as a campground has been built within the Kickapoo Creek Recreation Area of the said park.


Being the state capital, Springfield cannot afford to run out of attractions to entice tourists to pay it a visit. And with so many historic landmarks in its midst, many of them linked to Abe Lincoln, Springfield will definitely always have its share of audiences.

RVers are also very much welcome in Springfield and one particular attraction that should effectively appeal to them is the historic Route 66. Presently a heritage trail, Route 66 offers road-trippers the chance to experience what it is like to cruise through a major road section that was once considered as the main American thoroughfare.


Set along the Mississippi River, Alton has recently been named as among the 26 National Scenic Byways, affording many RVers a scenic drive way across town and to enjoy its many roadside attractions. More significantly, however, the place has become the new paradise for many bird-watchers since over 2,000 bald eagles have been observed to temporarily migrate to the area beginning late last year before these eventually return to the Great River Road headland in time for the winter.

For a chance to see these rare eagles in Alton, RV riders can take a short drive to Pere Marquette State Park where campgrounds are abundant. The public park, the largest in Illinois, stands upon a spacious 8,000 acres of land and provides a magnificent view of two major water forms in the Land of Lincoln namely the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers apart from the classic Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center, a 1930 historic structure constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Shawnee National Forest

A historic natural attraction set south of Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest is among the major wonders of the "Land of Lincoln" largely due to its diverse ecosystem that provides life to a wide array of wildlife like the rare Indiana bats.

Standing on a 280,000 acre of land variously divided into canyons, wetlands, lakes, and forests, the Shawnee National Forest is a welcome treat for many RV-boarded travelers since camping activities are quite common here. Apart from that, hunting is likewise relatively popular here, followed by fishing and sailing.

Starved Rock State Park

Another great attraction for many RVers is this state park found in North Illinois that boasts of 18 canyons that came about due to eroding streams and glacial ice melting. These cut across tree-covered headlands extending to as long as four miles and providing a simply spectacular sight for many tourists.

The most fascinating of the canyons is St. Peter that is about 425 million years old, originally brought down into shallow waters but miraculously resurfaced several years ago. Complementing these are several waterfalls and rivers cutting across various sections of the famed 18 canyons.

Situated south of Illinois River, the Starved Rock State Park should prove to be an irresistible site for RVers especially since it offers 133 premium camp sites to interested visitors. A nearby camp store is known to sell basic camping needs, including ice, firewood, and sodas, making for a truly enjoyable camping experience.

Visiting Illinois

Illinois generally enjoys good weather conditions so visiting the state will largely depend on the activities that RV-boarded tourists prefer. Various outdoor sports are available through all the four seasons that Illinois experiences so RV visiting is really a matter of personal choice.

During spring, state parks are the best areas to go to in Illinois, with the Mississippi Palisades State Park serving as a good example. The season allows the slopes and the valleys nestled inside the state park to be adorned with blooming bluebells, shooting stars, lobelias, trilliums, and many other exotic flowers, making a trek towards these areas extremely awesome.

During the winter months, snow in Illinois provides the perfect background for a round of skiing, especially in ski resorts settled along the Midwest area. Additionally, bird-watching ought to be quite exciting during this particular season as the American bald eagle makes its annual trip to the many public parks found in Illinois.

Hickory Shores Resort

The single biggest attraction of this RV resort has to be Carlyle Lake, the largest Illinois man-made lake where campers are offered a wide variety of outdoor fun. Fishing, quite naturally, is a priority with great chances of catching a bass, a catfish, a walleye, or a sauger. Another fine outdoor activity here is bird-watching since the lake is often visited by geese, ducks, ospreys, blue herons, and even by bald eagles.

As for possible areas to park in the RV, guests can choose from any of 200 fully hooked-up sites available at Hickory Shores Resort. Afterwards, they can have their fill of the water by taking a dip in the two swimming pools of the resort or play golf at its miniature golf areas. Tennis, basketball, volleyball, and many other games can also be played within the premises, but for guests who simply want to relax, a big screen TV is available round-the-clock.

Evening Star Camping Resort

Occupying only 35 acres, this camping resort based in Topeka is nevertheless near several major Illinois attractions, including Lincoln's former home, the Dickson Mounds, the Lincoln Library and Museum, the New Salem Village, and the Spoon River Drive Path, among others. The RV sites are powered by 20-30 amp electricity and set on either large wooded areas or open-air grassy lands.

Amenities found within the camp resort include shower-filled restrooms, a laundry room, a snack bar, a convenience store including sale of wood and ice, and a pavilion. Activities range from swimming, ball games, fishing, horseshoe pits, and theme-oriented weekends.

The resort prides itself in providing fun for the family with its great and memorable line-up of activities. RVers who come in groups will definitely enjoy staying here.

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