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Thursday, May 24, 2007 02:39 pm

Water wonder

See why Illinoisans voted Rend Lake one of the state’s top attractions

Untitled Document Whether you prefer the softly rippling waters of the lake on a summer’s evening or the pink-tinted sky above the lakeshore in the morning, it’s obvious why Rend Lake was recently named an Illinois wonder — and it boasts activities for everyone.
Rend Lake — located in southern Illinois, close to the junction of Interstates 57 and 64 — is the second-largest manmade lake in Illinois. Its 19,000 acres and surrounding 162 miles of shoreline offer camping, boating, swimming, picnicking, golf, horseback riding, and many other activities. Twenty-seven boat launches, plus a full-service marina where boats may be rented, provide access to the water. Visit the 3,300-acre Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, to walk the peaceful nature trails or to camp or picnic at scenic spots. The Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center offers lodging in the main resort and in cabins and dining at Windows Restaurant, where you can enjoy your dinner on a deck overlooking the lake.
A nine-mile horseback riding trail provides a perfect way to enjoy the wildlife. Fishermen will want to try their luck at catching crappie (for which the lake is renowned), largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. Build a sand castle at one of the many beaches or take a refreshing swim. More than 1,600 artisans from around Illinois display and sell their work at the Southern Illinois Art & Artisans Center, an Illinois State Museum site. The juried fine art makes this a must-see stop. The center hosts art shows and classes throughout the summer, as well as special events such as the Art and Wine Festival (Sept. 29 and 30). Golfers will want to hit the 27-hole Rend Lake Golf Course. Dining and lodging are available at the Season Lodge and Restaurant, which offers a pool and spa, plus golf packages. Suites with Jacuzzis and full kitchens make for a restful getaway. The Rend Lake Shooting Complex has 10 pits with automated pat traps and a 38-station sporting-clay range. The Rend Lake Hunting Preserve and the 1,000-acre Macedonia Game Preserve are open for hunting September-April.
Ringing the lake are towns that are home to a variety of historic sites, antique shops, and good restaurants. On the western edge of the lake, in Sesser, visit the 1914 Opera House. Travel east of the lake to Whittington and the Pheasant Hollow Winery, where you can sip wines on the porch of the rustic shop. South, near Benton, are the Antique Auto Museum and the Historic Jail Museum, and a few miles farther south are the Franklin County Historical Society Museum, the Ken Gray Presidential Hall of Fame, and a Factory Stores of America outlet mall. There’s a lot to do, but real peace, beauty, and relaxation are to be found along the lake, with its picturesque views and sounds of nature. It’s no wonder Illinois residents voted Rend Lake one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois.

Cinda Klickna is the secretary-treasurer of the Illinois Education Association and a regular contributor to Illinois Times.