Have a close-to-home vacation at Horseshoe Lake State Park 

By Dennis Bresnahan

Horseshoe Lake State Park is so close to St. Louis that the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis can be seen from most places in the park.

Although Horseshoe Lake State Park is located in Granite City in Madison County, Ill., it is the closest state park to the City of St. Louis area.

The park offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities on 2,960 acres with easy access to visitors from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Horseshoe Lake State Park is located off of Illinois Highway 111, between Interstate 270 and Interstate 55-70.

Five shelters are offered for group picnicking and small areas for family picnics are scattered throughout the park with convenient parking. Two playgrounds are also located in the park.

Horseshoe Lake State Park campground can accommodate 26 tent and trailer campers on wooded campsites with a sanitary dump station, pit toilets, and water hydrants conveniently located.

The campground is open yearly from May 1 through September 30. Camping is on a first-come basis and reservations are not taken for campsites. Campers can stay a maximum of 7 days in a 30-day period.

There is a special use or scout area that is available for organized youth groups, such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, that can be reserved for a modest fee.  

This area has a picnic shelter and barbecue grills along with a water hydrant and a field to camp in.

I have camped in this area over a weekend with our Boy Scout troop and had the Cub Scout pack spend the day with us for a picnic. It is isolated in a separate area from the regular campsites and the rest of the park, and is very nice.

Hiking is a popular activity in this park. There are four miles of hiking trails that wander through the natural vegetation.

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This is a paved, flat, 15-mile long trail on a former railroad bed that connects with two other trails that are part of a 130-mile long network of nine interconnected trails.

But probably the most popular of all activities here is boating and fishing, and that is because most of the park is water. The horseshoe-shaped lake that the park is named after is actually an old oxbow of the Mississippi River.

This 2,107-acre lake is a very old flood plain lake created by the abandoned river channel. The shallow lake maintains a connection with the Mississippi River through drainage ditches.

Horseshoe Lake contains channel catfish, bass, crappie, bluegill, carp, and buffalo. Boat fishing with a 50 horsepower limit is allowed except during waterfowl season.

Two boat ramps are available for public use. There is a small store in a trailer next to the picnic shelters that is operated by a concessionaire that sells bait and other fishing-related items.

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