Beaver Dam Lake, despite its name, is an artificial lake created by a Carlinville fishing club in the 1890s. It’s the centerpiece of the 750-acre park and the highlight of this easy 2.9-mile loop. Beginning at the park restaurant’s outdoor patio, this route follows the lakeshore for 1.5 miles: heading east over several footbridges to the dam, topping the dam, and turning west to hug the lake’s northern shore.
At the hike’s halfway point, you’ll leave the lake and follow the Marsh Trail into upland woods on the park’s west side. A marshy pond with an active population of swallows, butterflies, and bullfrogs awaits keen observers who stop at the viewing platform near mile 1.6. After the platform, the trail begins an easy climb past the campground before turning south and skirting the west edge of the pond toward a dense maple canopy. Just before closing the loop, hop into the boardwalk that protects the fragile wetlands from wandering soles.
The lake-side restaurant is open April thru October and is a great place to stop for a post-hike meal.
-Mapped by Ted Villare