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She settles herself into the kayak and pushes away from the shore. The small boat cuts through the fog rising from the surface of the lake, and she turns gliding deeper into the cove. Behind her on the main body of Lake of Egypt she can hear the motor boats purring to life. Soon water skiers and jet skis will zip across the lake, but here in her cove she is almost alone, the surface of the lake broken only by her paddle and the cast of an occasional fishing rod. The name conjures images of desserts. The beautiful water of Lake of Egypt in southern Illinois, however, has become her own personal oasis and a place to return to again and again.
Lake of Egypt or Lake Egypt as it is also known is an impoundment of the south fork of the Saline River. The reservoir was created in 1962 with the construction of the Lake of Egypt Dam by the Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC). Lake Egypt supplies cooling water for SIPC's coal-burning electric plant.
The southern region of Illinois is also known as "Little Egypt." There are several theories as to how it got its nickname. Some believe it is because the land where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi River is similar to the Nile Delta. In fact in 1818 a group of developers bought a tract of land at the southern tip of Illinois and named it Cairo. Today, the town of the same name still sits at the confluence of Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Others think "Little Egypt" got its name because of a poor harvest in the north in the 1830's that forced people south to buy grain. Regardless of how it came by the name, "Little Egypt" inspired Lake of Egypt's name.
Lake of Egypt is surrounded by residential development with several public access points including a boat ramp at the Shawnee National Forest campground on the shore of the lake. The Shawnee National Forest spans across parts of southern Illinois and includes trails for hiking and horseback riding along with places to hunt and rock climb. In addition to the national forest ramp, there are several marinas around Lake Egypt, and boats of all sizes are allowed on the lake. With 2,300 acres of water there is plenty of room for water skis, jet skis and boats. Lake of Egypt also has many coves and quiet fingers to explore by canoe or kayak. The lake is full of fish, and anglers will find abundant populations of bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, striped bass and largemouth bass to challenge them.
Six miles south of Marion and eight miles north of Vienna, Lake of Egypt has easy access to any amenities a visitor might want. There are lakefront vacation rentals around the lake as well as real estate for sale for anyone wishing to extend their stay. With shopping, restaurants, and golf nearby, there is something for everyone. Ferne Clyffe State Park is a short drive from the lake and a fantastic day trip. It was named Ferne Clyffe in 1899 by two brothers who bought what is now part of the state park. They sold the fern laden land to Miss Emma Rebman who opened Ferne Clyffe to visitors on Sundays. In 1949 the state bought the land and opened the state park. Today the state park includes 2,430 acres of ferns, woodland and interesting rock formations. There are trails for hiking and horseback riding, and areas set aside for hunting quail, rabbit and deer in season.
With its state parks, national forests and beautiful lakes, the southern region of Illinois is an inspiring backdrop to a Lake of Egypt getaway. "Little Egypt" has big recreation opportunities, and Lake of Egypt is sure to draw visitors back time and time again.
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