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If you've ever dreamed of leaving the city on Friday night and quickly arriving at a lakefront piece of heaven, then Highland Lake is just the place for you. Part of the Illinois Chain of Lakes in the Chicagoland Region, Highland Lake is only 50 miles from downtown Chicago and 55 miles from Milwaukee. The small, 110-acre lake is private, pleasant and a community all its own. Although referred to as part of a chain of lakes, Highland Lake isn't connected to any of the others. The group of small lakes are all glacial pothole lakes between Lake Michigan and the Fox River.
Highland Lake was originally called Taylor Lake after the earliest settler to the region; records show a Mr. Taylor built a cabin on the north shore in 1836 and departed within a couple of months for parts unknown. The lake was called Taylor Lake for many years. The area around the lakes was settled early and small villages grew up within what became Avon Township. An amusing anecdote found among old histories tells of the old hall built in the area where religious meetings were held. During the winter of 1848, an especially cold winter, someone produced a hen egg with the words, "Time ends, March 3, 1848" in raised lettering on the shell. The lettering was obviously part of the shell itself and many took it for an omen of the end of the world. In the ensuing panic, one miserly person who had cheated many in the community decided he needed to make his peace with the Maker he would soon be meeting and negotiated to make right all the wrongs he can committed. Unfortunately for those standing to gain, before the date came to pay his debts, another citizen with a more scholarly bent found that he could produce raised lettering on an eggshell by writing the words in oil, then submersing the egg in strong vinegar. The acid ate away layers of the shell, except where he had written in oil. Needless to say, the crooked businessman was extremely angry and refused to pay off his agreements. No doubt many neighbors were just as pleased to see him be made the fool.
There appears to be no record of when the name was changed to Highland Lake. Neighborhoods grew up in the surrounding area and more homes were built. Summer cottages have given way to primarily year-round homes. Four private parks around the lake provide access to second-tier homes without water frontage. The Highland Lake Property Owners Association monitors water quality diligently. Several events on the water, which tend to bond the neighborhood together, are planned each year for residents and their guests. The lake is strictly a no-wake lake, and no power boats are allowed -- only 35 hp trolling motors are made an exception. There is nothing to disturb the quiet on the lake except the laughter of children swimming to the swim dock.
Fishing is a favorite activity at Highland Lake. Northern pike, rock bass, common carp, largemouth bass, muskellunge, bluegill, walleye and panfish are caught. Canoeing and kayaking are favorite sports here; the lake is small enough that one can get where he wants to go by rowing and that's how residents want to keep it. The lack of powerboat sports has no doubt kept much residential pressure from over-running the one-and-a-half mile shoreline. It is still relatively uncrowded, unhurried and unspoiled.
For the visitor lucky enough to arrange for one of the vacation rentals on Highland Lake, there are plenty of off-lake activities in the surrounding suburban area to keep one exploring. Several of Lake County's Forest Preserves are located within a 10-mile radius of the lake. Rollins Savannah Forest Preserve features a multi-use trail open for hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and nature and wildlife observation. This preserve also offers a native seed nursery. Duck Farm Forest Preserve has an off-leash dog park. McDonald Woods Forest Preserve has a 3.8-mile loop around the woods and wetlands -- a perfect place to hike, bicycle and cross-country ski. Sun Lake Forest Preserve has three miles of trails designed for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and nature and wildlife observation. Spurs lead to Lake Villa Baseball Park and Longwood Centre Park, home to the historic Lehmann Mansion.
If sand dunes and swimming in Lake Michigan are what you're looking for, Illinois Beach State Park is only 13 miles to the east of Highland Lake. The six-and-a-half-mile long park encompasses some of the few remaining dune areas left in Illinois and includes unique vegetation and ecology remaining only in this small area. A short distance south along the shore, Waukegan Harbor area is home to marinas where sailors can dock their bigger boats. At Gurnee, just west of Waukegan, Gurnee Mills Mall invites the shopper to investigate hard to find shops and specialty stores. Also at Gurnee, Six Flags Great America thrills amusement park aficionados with a great selection of roller coasters.
Only 15 miles west of Highland Lake, the Chain O' Lakes State Park offers full aprk accommodations including camping and rent-a-cabins. Sprawling along the Fox River, the park is a popular day-trip destination for Chicago and Milwaukee residents. Back at Highland Lake, the nearby towns of Grayslake and Round Lake Beach offer the supermarket, hardware, golf, playgrounds and the municipal services lakelubbers need regularly. And, if you need to head back to Chicago on Monday morning, public transportation is nearby to get you there in record time -- without traffic jams and parking hassles.
Real estate deals can be found for these unique lakefront properties. Often those who once take advantage of the vacation rentals decide they want to spend more time on Highland Lake and call it home. Plan a trip to Highland Lake and see what the fuss is about. The irresistible lure of the lake may make it impossible for you to leave.
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