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Seventeen miles and thousands of acres of water stretch out in front of power boaters leaving the dam at Lake Shelbyville. In addition to its wide expanses, Shelbyville Lake is rimmed with fingers and coves, making it an ideal choice for quiet boaters and anglers as well. Sprawling across 11,000 acres in South Central Illinois, the lake straddles the Shelby and Moultrie county line, offering more than enough water for everyone to enjoy.
Lake Shelbyville is an impoundment of the Kaskaskia River and created by the Shelbyville Dam. Construction on the dam began in May of 1963 and was completed in the summer of 1970. The lake was built for flood control, recreation and water storage. Managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Shelbyville Lake is the third largest inland lake in Illinois, though spring water levels can fluctuate significantly according to water needs.
The fishing in Lake Shelbyville is exceptional, promising large muskies to challenge anglers. In fact, the Illinois State Record muskie, an enormous 38 pound 8 ounce, 50-inch long monster, was pulled from the lake in April 2002. There are also healthy populations of large mouth bass, white bass, crappie, bluegill and walleye. The lake record catfish was caught in 2002 by Shelbyville resident Chris Rentfro. The catfish weighed 62 pounds,10 ounces and was four feet long. There are several guide services available locally to help anglers find the really big fish, and fishing boat rentals are also available. The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources District Fish Biologist manage several farms ponds to maintain the fish populations in Lake Shelbyville.
There are several finger coves stretching from the main body of Shelbyville Lake. Some of them are quiet and suited for fishing or kayaking and canoeing, while others are informally designated as party coves. There are some marinas and boat rentals for houseboats, pontoon, motor, and fishing boats. Most of the shoreline at Lake Shelbyville is undeveloped, but there are a few waterfront stops. Accommodations range from campgrounds for tents and RV's, some of which are Corps-run, to resorts. There are also restaurants and the Lake Shelbyville Visitor's Center.
Shelbyville Lake has trails for hiking and backpacking, and wildlife and waterfowl are abundant. The US Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois DNR, and Consolidated Communications raised nesting platforms to attract osprey. The two-foot tall raptors were decimated by DDT poisoning, but soon, lucky visitors to Lake Shelbyville might begin seeing pairs of the threatened bird. There is forested and open land near the lake for hunting. Pheasants, doves, quail, and waterfowl live around the lake. Rabbits, deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, coyotes, and foxes are also plentiful. Ten miles southeast of Shelbyville, the Hiddenspring State Forest has a thousand acres available for hunting.
Two state parks sit on the shore of Lake Shelbyville. On the west side of the lake, 2,200 acres Eagle Creek State park has miles of trails for hiking and cross country skiing. The park also has campsites and public boat launches. Wolf Creek State Park has a sand swimming beach and trails for snow mobiles and horses. Both state parks have picnic facilities.
Located at the dam, the town of Shelbyville has restaurants, shopping, and a variety of accommodations including bed and breakfasts. Vacation rentals include cabins, cottages and single family homes both on the lakefront and with lake views, and there is real estate for sale at Shelbyville and nearby Sullivan and Bethany. The Lincoln Log Cabin is just a few miles away. The 86-acre state historic site has a reproduction of President Abraham Lincoln's father and stepmother's two-room cabin. Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln's cabin was rebuilt in 1935 by the CCC on the original cabin site. Today the working living history museum is staffed by volunteer interpreters, and it is a great example of rural Illinois life in 1845.
With its many coves and wide expanses of water, Lake Shelbyville has plenty of room for everyone. Pleasure boaters, power boaters, kayakers and fisherman will all find a spot on beautiful Shelbyville Lake.
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