Chicago-area cross-country skiers in need of solitude need to visit the Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area. Located 159-miles from Chicago, the park has 7.5-mile of groomed cross-country ski trails.
“We’re one of the few state parks that is remote and doesn’t receive heavy use,” says Rick Welchans, a state park ranger.
And that is not the only distinction the park holds: It is the site of Illinois’ only Wild and Scenic River (a federal distinction) — the Middle Fork Branch of the Vermilion River.
But there’s more: The park’s 2,700-acres are set along the dividing line where the prairies of the West meet the forests of the East.
After passing through the “flatlands” of central Illinois, one is greeted to a lush river valley, high bluffs, and a landscape unique to this part of the state. Wildlife viewing may include whitetail deer, turkeys and coyotes.
And if you’re looking to winter camp, this is the place to go. Six walk-in sites are available for $6 a night. And while the park averages only 1 walk-in occupied on the weekends, “kick and gliders” may find they have the whole park to themselves.
After the trails: If you’re looking to eat, trot on over to Sweetwater’s; explore the past at the Vermilion County Historical Society; and if you’re in the mood for additional outdoor activities, head on over to the nearby Kickapoo State Park and the Kennekuk Cove County Park.
For more information contact: the Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area, 10906 Kickapoo Park Road, Oakwood, IL 61858, 217/ 442-4915.
Making The Trip
Here’s how to get there from the Chicago Loop: Take Interstate 90/94 east to Interstate 57; go south on Interstate 57 to interstate 74; go east of Interstate 74 to exit 206 (Newtown Road); go north on Newtown Road 6.3-miles to the park.
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