Recreational boaters may launch onto the Illinois River, accessed via boat ramps at Copperas Creek Landing and Liverpool, to travel up or down river, visiting other riverside communities or popular beaches. While the increasingly famous “jumping carp” (they really do jump!) have made waterskiing and jet-skiing on the river hazardous, they have spawned new water sports, such as bow-hunting for the leaping fish.
For carp-free boating, head to the 250 acre Canton Lake. Daily permits are available at the campground just a short drive from the boat launch. Canoeists and kayakers start on Canton Lake for an upstream exploration into Copperas Creek. Public access strip mine lakes provide a range of paddling experiences. Lakeland Park offers several large lakes close to Canton (even pedal boats to rent).
Long, narrow, and winding, Lake #3 at Fulton County Camping & Recreation Area can feel surprisingly remote after rounding the first bend or two. For an even wilder feel, explore the network of over 200 bodies of water within the Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area, except during waterfowl hunting season. Giant Goose Ranch boasts 52 named lakes and ponds with more than 300 acres of water!
Access the celebrated Spoon River below the Bernadotte Dam and via boat ramps at London Mills and the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. Distance between access points is long, and private property along Spoon River must be respected; so, careful trip planning is very important. Bernadotte dam is dangerous and must be portaged! When the water is high,
Thompson Lake on the Emiquon Preserve offers visitors over 1,500 acres of waters to paddle. At lower water levels, 6 miles of ditches left over from drainage and cultivation, provide access to explore this extensive wetland restoration. Emiquon Preserve boating and fishing permits can be obtained at the nearby Dickson Mounds Museum. Gas powered motors, whether or not in use, are not permitted.