Circling Lake Kinkaid

By Sarah Niebrugge, @SNiebrugge_DE l Daily Egyptian

This week, I spent my Monday driving around lake Kinkaid, one of the many great places in the area for hiking and exploring. 

The trip hardly went as planned as Jay Holland and I arrived at the Kinkaid Lake Spillway expecting to climb the waterfalls. The excessive rain from the past week had other plans for us.

The water was too high to cross to the waterfall area and we had to make a quick decision of where we would take our adventure next.


We followed the highway in a loop around the lake trying to find the best places to hike or swim.

The lake is an artificial reservoir, built in 1968, located just on the edge of Shawnee National Forest. The land surrounding the lake is divided between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and Kinkaid-Reed’s Creek Conservancy District, according to Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Trees and sandstone bluffs line the edges of the water. The one beach we did manage to find, located at the Johnson Creek Recreational Area trailhead, had been closed down and is now a grassy area beside the trail looking out onto the lake. 

“The condition of the beach from silt buildup made it unmanageable,” Sue Hirsch, assistant public affairs at Shawnee National Forest, said.

We also followed the Hidden Cove trail, which leads across a small bridge and through a wooded area of the lake. During a mid 80 degree-day, it was a nice relief to have as much shade as it lent us. 

While driving around, we found there were many activities to choose from.

Though camping is permitted on some of the area, it is not allowed on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources property. Hirsch said the camping area is well utilized because it is closer to the St. Louis area.


Many people also use the lake area for fishing, boating, hiking and horseback riding. Though no motor restrictions are held on the lake, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website states that a 50 mph speed limit must be followed during daytime and 25 mph speed limit from sunset to sunrise.

Our final destination for the day was cliff ledges outside of the camping-prohibited property, which I have not been to since my first year in Carbondale. 

The hike to the water was about two miles and took you through fields and woods. You are definitely going to get a good hike out of this trek. The entrance is marked with a small graveled parking area right off the trail. 

The cliffs are a perfect location to soak in the sun and take a dip in the water. We found a few other people taking advantage of the beautiful day.

Rachel Sirianni, an alumna from Chicago, was one of the three people we found relaxing on the ledge. She said she enjoyed being there when it is not very crowded.

Sirianni was joined by two other alumni, Carson Edmonds and David Martin, both from Marion.

“It’s a really cool place that I’ve always known about and never visited,” Edmonds said. “It feels like I was missing out the whole time.”

After spending a while by the water, the trek back seems much longer. 

If you are squeamish about tiny blood-sucking bugs, this trail might not be the best for you. The amount of ticks we found on us and the dog was just over thirty. Bug spray is a must. 

Other trip essentials are water and sunscreen of course. You may be covered by wooded areas most of the time, but the sun will find every chance to burn you as I have learned. 

If you have a full day to spend and want to do some outdoor exploring, Lake Kinkaid definitely has enough to keep you busy.