Chicago outdoors and coronavirus: IDNR sites, Starved Rock, Wolf Lake, Morton Arb., boating, trout question

Compiling some of the changes and status updates coming around Chicago and Illinois outdoors with the easing of restrictions on Friday.

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A file photo of dawn at Wolf Lake on the Illinois side at William W. Powers State Recreation Area, which reopens Friday, May 29. Credit: Dale Bowman

A file photo of dawn at Wolf Lake on the Illinois side at William W. Powers State Recreation Area, which reopens Friday, May 29.

Dale Bowman

Tomorrow begins the big expansion of access and use in the outdoors around the Chicago area and across Illinois. So a bunch of adjustments come in that regard.

This is a scattershot collection of notes and updates off of that and other things.

Let’s start with the key one.

All Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites (with a few exceptions at historical sites) will be open on Friday, May 29. Also hours will adjust to regular site hours. For example, Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area will go to its usual main-use hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The cooling lakes will be open for their usual 6 a.m. to sunset hours.

By now, all of us know and most of us follow the usual precautions in public settings of social distancing, having a face mask, not over congregating, etc.

Be aware that “[w]hile normal park hours will resume, shelters, playgrounds and visitors centers will remain closed until further notice. Concessions will be open at all sites.’’

Camping at IDNR sites also resumes Friday. Make reservations by clicking here.

If a more definitive posting comes, I will update here. Otherwise, click here for the latest from the IDNR.

* * *

Just in time for the reopening of Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks on Friday, May 29, impacts from the flooding of the Illinois River remain with “parking restrictions, trail access closures, and temporary closures of the sites when parking lots reach capacity.”

Here are the key paragraphs from the IDNR on what to expect if visiting:

Beginning May 29, the only entrance to Starved Rock State Park that will be open to visitors is the south entrance on Illinois Rt. 71. Due to flooding in recent weeks on the Illinois River, Starved Rock’s main lower area parking lots near the Visitor Center will remain closed for the reopening of the park. Visitors may park in the Starved Rock overflow lot, though only 300 parking spaces are available. The parking lot near the Starved Rock Lodge will be restricted to lodge patrons with reservations. When Starved Rock/Matthiessen parking lots reach capacity, the parks will be closed temporarily for safety reasons until parking becomes available. Motorists are reminded not to park along park roads or public highways as that may prevent emergency vehicles from getting through. Vehicles parked illegally will be towed at the owner’s expense. In recent years, temporary parking closures have occurred frequently during busy weekends at Starved Rock. The heaviest traffic congestion and likely times for park closures occur on weekend days between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Regular visitors on holiday weekends know the drill, stay in contact with media and the IDNR on Facebook and Twitter on the parking situations.

Click here for more details on what is open, what is restricted at Starved Rock/Matthiessen, that most visited complex of IDNR sites.

* * *

One of the key changes on Friday, May 29, in Illinois is the easing of boating restrictions.

Click here for a full breakdown of changes in the status of fishing and boating regulations. The key chart on the easing of boating capacity is at the bottom of that post.

* * *

For those wondering about the opening of trout lakes and other access/site adjustments at the Forest Preserves of Cook County, director of communications Carl Vogel emailed, “We plan to roll out changes next week.”

Click here for the word on closures/openings at the FPCC. If anything changes before next week, I will update.

* * *

William W. Powers SRA on Chicago’s Southeast Side reopens Friday, May 29, too. Of note, the shelters and the visitor center will not be open.

For those wondering about the trout, they are out in Wolf Lake. Hopefully some of them survived and will provide some interesting catches before Wolf Lake warms up too much.

* * *

A significant note on a concessionaire.

Lakeside, the much valued concessionaire at Shabbona Lake SRA, will finally be open with some tweaks. They will have boat rentals and take-out food. The restaurant and camp store had been up in the air a few days ago, but yesterday Lakeside shared a post on updates that included this:

Pokanoka’s Cafe will be open with a limited menu seven days a week for carryout orders! Our outdoor patio has been set up for safe social distancing and the park is bringing more picnic tables. The Camp Store will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays! Lakeside Bait, Tackle and Boat Rental will be open seven days a week!

* * *

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle will open again for members-only on Monday, June 1. It will remain members-only through June 14. Online member registrations for visits are required and are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 29.

Click here for details.

This members-only status reminds me that with everything going on this spring and winter, my wife and I have’t decided what museum/arboretum/aquarium we would join in 2020 (we do a different one each year). Maybe I can pitch the Morton Arboretum to my wife.

* * *

The folks at Ducks Unlimited are doing a fundraiser with face masks. It looks like face masks could be here for a while. Click here for details on ordering.

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