Macoupin County’s lakes are a source of summer
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With Jan Dona
The Write Team
While there are some who want nothing more than to spend their summer on a beach, I’ve always preferred a lake. Yes, the water is murky and the bottom can be slimy. None of the fish are tropical and the shells along the shoreline tend to be those belonging to freshwater mussels. There’s just something great about going to the local lake or reservoir and enjoying the time spent there as an adult just as much as you did as a child.
Like a lot of people, I’ve done beach vacations. I’ve sat on beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and on the east and west coasts. It’s all very nice and fun and beautiful. It’s also expensive. The sound of ocean waves is relaxing and I certainly think everyone should experience the vastness of an ocean at least once in their lives, but it’s hard for a lot of people to make such trips on a regular basis. That’s why I’m a big lake fan.
Macoupin County has a wealth of lakes and reservoirs that anyone can enjoy at little to no cost. From the reservoirs in Stauton, Mt. Olive and Bunker hill, to the larger lakes in Gillespie or Carlinville, to Otter Lake, which is the county’s largest. While these don’t account for all of the county’s lakes, they are all open for public use, with some even making upgrades to provide better service.
Carlinville has recently added a rental cabin, and if the cabin becomes as popular as the city’s campground, chances are good additional cabins will be added in upcoming years.
After about a 20-year hiatus, Gillespie has reopened the swimming area at the New Lake. The beach has been cleaned, the lake dredged and about 150 tons of fresh beach sand have been hauled in. There is no charge to access the swimming area, but do so at your own risk as there is no lifeguard on duty.
Our area lakes are there for those of us who like to boat, fish, ski and swim. Lakes are great places to gather with friends. In fact, it’s not unusual to find two or more boats tied together and floating in a cove as those on board have a floating party.
Although lake water is usually far murkier than ocean water, the creatures found inhabiting a lake are generally much less scary than, say, a shark. Sure, you’ll find a freshwater mussel or maybe some snails, but there isn’t much that bites in a Macoupin County lake. OK, water moccasins do pop up occasionally, but sightings are rare.
I spent my childhood on a lake. My family owned a cabin on Gillespie’s Old Lake. It’s where I learned to swim. It’s where I caught my first fish. It’s where I suffered repeated bouts of poison ivy, but I kept going back because it was all worth it. Every day I spent at that cabin felt like a vacation. The cabin is long gone, but I drive out there often just to connect with all the old places and happy memories.
There’s nothing wrong with resort vacations with pristine hotel rooms, fresh sheets daily and a concierge, but I prefer the woods with its campfires, beer coolers and insect repellent. The lake is were I learned to be independent and have fun just a few miles from home. Lakes are where I’ll always return.