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Gages Lake, in the Chicagoland Region of Illinois, is the perfect example of why those "in the know" love Lake County. USNews recently listed the Gages Lake area as one of the "Best Places" to live, with low housing costs, low crime and high per capita income. Only 37 miles from downtown Chicago, Gages Lake is an ideal spot to visit or live year-round. The unincorporated village of Gages Lake provides friendly neighbors and scenery overlooking two lakes. The lake is private with access only to residents except at a couple of west shore walking trails. For residents, plenty of access points are provided by numerous beach, playground, picnic and ball field facilities on both Gages Lake and Valley Lake. Boat access is by permit only to those who pay a fee -- higher for non-residents -- so the water is never crowded or over-fished.
Gages Lake is bordered by the unincorporated villages of Gages Lake and Wildwood, with some of the western shore in the Village of Grayslake. One of a great many small glacial pothole lakes that give Lake County it's name, Gages Lake was named after John Gage. Gage settled in the area in 1836 and within forty years, the area became a popular resort area. Resort hotels, guest houses and camps soon sprang up on the majority of area lakes. Visitors soon became summer residents to escape the heat of Chicago. Often mothers and children would stay for the summer with fathers arriving on weekends by train. At one point, Gages Lake even sported an amusement park. By the turn of the century, many resort hotels were replaced with summer cottages. Now, most shore residences are year-round homes and breadwinners commute daily via the Metra rail and bus links into the city. Although nearby Grayslake and Gurnee offer all the amenities of any larger community, the Gages Lake area still retains and jealously guards it's suburban small-town feel.
The small, 128-acre Gages Lake isn't conducive to larger boats, so water sports focus on swimming, kayaking, canoeing, pontooning and sail boarding. Personal watercraft, water skiing and power boats are permitted, however. The shoreline is nearly completely residential properties except for the Wildwood Park District beaches. In winter, the well-iced surface gives over to ice fishing and ice skating. Fishing is popular year round, with black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, muskellunge (muskie), northern pike, white crappie, yellow bass and yellow perch vying to steal the fisherman's bait. The Gages Lake Conservation Committee, an affiliate of Wildwood Parks board, monitors water quality and works with other groups to improve fishing and recreational areas around the lake.
Because of the suburban flavor of Lake County, residents and visitors find nearly every possible amenity within a five-mile radius of Gages Lake. Just off the west shoreline, the College of Lake County provides an excellent community college with a variety of community enrichment and on-line courses for all age groups. Larger Grayslake has every variety of small-town business and service. Six miles to the east, larger Gurnee offers Gurnee Mills Mall with specialty shops and Six Flags Great America Amusement Park. Chicago's Loop is just over a half hour away by train, with world-class museums, restaurants, theatres and special events venues.
For the nature lover, there are plentiful outdoors activities available near Gages Lake. Excellent golf courses abut the lake for the links fan. Just south of Gages Lake, Almond Marsh Forest Preserve provides 473 acres of some of the best birdwatching territory in Illinois. Almond Marsh is home to a great blue heron rookery, rare sedges, and the Lake County Forest Preserve District's Planning, Conservation and Development offices. Although there are no developed trails here, an observer may sight a wide variety of waterfowl and raptors including Cooper's hawks and peregrine falcon. Just a couple of miles to the north, Rollins Savannah Forest Preserve offers five-and-a-half miles of boardwalks, bridges and multi-use trails for hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and nature and wildlife observation. In winter, local snowmobile clubs guide groups of club members on cross-country trails to enjoy the winter landscape.
Vacation rentals can be found at Gages and Valley Lakes, in the Wildwood area, and around Grayslake. Often monthly or summer rentals can be found right at the lakefront. Several condo developments in the area provide longer-term lodgings while modern chain hotels can be just right for an overnight stay. Gages Lake is a good place to lock in some of that very reasonably priced real estate USNews talks about: there are properties in all price ranges. There will never be a better time to enjoy the lakefront at Gages Lake. Head north from Chicago -- you'll be glad you did!
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