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Originally named Maraldo Lake, Heritage Lake is an 85-acre, man-made lake located just east of the town of Mackinaw on the border of Illinois' western and central tourism regions. Heritage Lake is a considered a rural subdivision of Mackinaw, but non-resident members enjoy the same privileges and facilities on the serene waters as offered to those who live in the area.
Development on Heritage Lake began in 1969. Some of the first structures were small weekend and vacation cottages. Within a few years, visitors began viewing the scenic lake as a desirable location for year-round living. Today there are approximately 300 homes on and near the 3/4 mile-long lake.
Although a permanent home for some, Heritage Lake is also source of outdoor recreation. The lake offers four miles of shoreline and plenty of wide, open water to be enjoyed by canoe, sailboat, paddleboat, rowboat, or small boats powered by electric motors. A public boat ramp allows boats onto the water to fish or just to enjoy the afternoon breeze. Anglers will find large populations of northern pike, tiger muskie, walleye, channel catfish, several varieties of bass, white crappie, black crappie, green sunfish, and bluegill. A community park complete with a wide sandy beach is a popular spot for family gatherings, volleyball, a friendly game of horseshoes, swimming, and of course, sand castles. The beach area is also home to a children's park and a large covered pavilion. For picnics, there are many tables and shady trees to enjoy a waterfront BBQ or a quiet lunch. The park also has public restroom facilities.
For those who would like to set up camp near the lake, Heritage Lake Association members and their guests can pitch a tent at the Heritage Lake Campground. Campers can choose from a primitive style campsite or enjoy the comfort of their own RV. No electricity is available at the campsite. There are also a few vacation rentals and private real estate for sale on the lake. More vacation rental options can be found in the in the surrounding towns of Tazewell County.
Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the Mackinaw River State Fish and Wildlife Area with its 1,448 acres of timbered hills, open meadows, ponds, and river access. The area is primarily managed for the hunting of whitetail deer, but fishing and canoeing are welcomed. Anglers can try for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, crappie and carp. Note: Although most fish taken from Illinois lakes and streams are safe to eat, refer to the Illinois Fish Advisory (link below) before eating fish caught from any Illinois waterway. In addition to deer, hunters can seek out pheasant, waterfowl, rabbit, and squirrel. There is also a nature preserve and picnic area for woodland hiking and wildlife viewing. The beautiful Mackinaw River runs through most of the area.
For an interesting daytrip of sightseeing, culture, and entertainment, the city of Peoria is located northwest of Heritage Lake. Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River and the fifth-largest city in Illinois. Downtown Peoria boasts the Peoria Civic Center, the Apollo Theatre, and O'Brien Field, as well as an arts, dining, and entertainment area near the riverfront. Grandview Drive, which Theodore Roosevelt referred to during a 1910 visit as the "world's most beautiful drive," stretches through Peoria and nearby Peoria Heights. In addition to Grandview Drive, the Peoria Park District boasts 9,000 acres of parks, including a zoo and several public golf courses.
Southeast of Heritage Lake are the cities Bloomington and Normal. The rapidly growing metropolitan area features an amusement park, an indoor public ice skating facility, and the Bloomington-Normal Constitution Trail, a 24-mile paved trail perfect for jogging, walking, cycling, and rollerblading. Museums, historic sites, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, and over 1,100 acres of land including 44 park sites, a zoo and several golf courses maintained by Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department make Bloomington/Normal a great place to visit. For some of the best shopping in Central Illinois, there are several malls and more than twenty shopping plazas.
Whether you're looking for an afternoon of fun in the sun or a relaxing lakefront vacation, the sparkling waters and gorgeous sunsets of Heritage Lake never fail to provide the ultimate getaway.
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