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The Village of Third Lake, located north of Chicago, is one of those secret locations that blends life in the big city with outdoor amenities. Small Druce Lake, named after Alexander Druce who came from New York state to purchase property in 1844, was originally called 'Second Lake". Just west of Druce Lake is Third Lake, originally named Chittenden Lake.
Druce Lake is entirely within the Village of Third Lake, along with the eastern part of Third Lake. Both provide water recreation and fun to residents and invited guests throughout the four seasons. Not quite a part of the Fox River Chain of Lakes, the surrounding area is liberally sprinkled with glacial pothole lakes and accompanying wetlands. Third Lake covers 157 acres while Druce Lake encompasses 89 acres. Both are natural lakes, although Third Lake has a small water control spillway at the outlet. Neither lake is open to the public, although boat launches and water access are available to village residents via permit and key system.
This inviting water wonderland, less than 50 miles from Chicago, became popular as a resort area early in the 1800s. Once the railroad passed nearby, resort hotels and amusements were built on nearly every lake in the area. As late as 1940, Druce Lake supported an Association Camp that apparently shared space between private cottages and church-operated facilities. The resorts and camps are gone now. In their stead are year-round homes, condos and summer cottages. The railroad has become the Metra, part of northern Illinois' excellent mass transit system serving the Chicago area. Convenient travel makes the Third Lake area an ideal bedroom community for Chicago's North Side.
The shoreline along Druce Lake is nearly all residential property. The southern shoreline of Third Lake is part of the Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve with the rest holding numerous private homes. Off-shore residents may obtain keys to Village boat docks and swimming beach from the Village Office. Gasoline motors are not allowed on Druce lake, and boat permits must be obtained from the Village. Such restrictions protect natural vegetation along the shore and prevent unnecessary erosion from the wake of power boating. The no-wake speed limits assure Druce Lake will remain a quiet venue for canoeing, kayaking and rowing. Third Lake does permit gasoline motors, but regulations are in place to assure a harmonious lakefront community. With a maximum depth of 70 feet, Third Lake is the deepest lake in the area.
Fishing on both lakes is excellent. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources fish survey shows that largemouth bass and bluegill are the most common species. Black crappie and northern pike are also caught. Both lakes are ideal spots to teach children to fish or simply enjoy the flora and fauna around a Midwest natural lake. Ice fishing takes over when the lake freezes and provides endless hours of fishing fun for hardy souls. A narrow channel connects Druce Lake to Third Lake just across the narrow peninsula. Both lakes can be accessed from the Village dock. Anglers should check the Illinois Fish Consumption Advisories if they plan on eating many meals of locally-caught fish.
Although the atmosphere surrounding the Village of Third Lake is peaceful, the area is neither isolated nor difficult to access. Only eight miles west of Gurnee, modern shopping and services may be found a short distance away. Many visitors come to enjoy the specialty shops at Gurnee Mills Mall. Six Flags Great America Amusement Park still possesses some of the world's best and fastest roller coasters. There is no shortage of local restaurants and shopping along US highway 45, and nearby Greyslake provides nearly all of the services one might desire, including hotel and motel accommodations, movie theatres, hair stylists, skate parks, playgrounds and video game facilities.
Those wishing for more outdoor activities can make the short trip to Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve, just west of Third Lake. The Preserve is the largest in Lake County, encompassing 1,216 unbroken acres of trails, woodlands, ponds and wetlands on the north, south and west of Third Lake. Teeming with wildlife and wildflowers of riotous colors, 5.5 miles of trails, bridges and boardwalks encircles the site. The multi-use trail is open for bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing and nature observation. Birding is a popular pastime as the wetlands provide excellent habitat for ruddy ducks, blue-winged teal, great blue herons, egrets and a variety of waterfowl species. In winter, snowmobile trails can be accessed from the preserve.
One of the must-see locations near the Village of Third Lake is the New Gracanica Monastery and Church just north of the lake. The Serbian Orthodox Church is a scaled replica of the original Gracanica in Kosovo. The original church is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as an endangered example of medieval monuments. Built 18 percent larger than the original, the entire inside of the structure is decorated in traditional iconic fresco painting by Polish-American artist Fr. Theodore Jurewicz. The spectacular artworks in the Byzantine style cover walls, pillars, dome and vaults of the church, while ornate carved doors depict 23 monasteries and churches in areas of Serbia. This is an operational congregation so those wishing to visit should contact the office to find out the particulars, or visit during one of the festivals that are open to the public.
Private vacation rentals are available at Third Lake and Druce Lake by the week or season, and real estate is often available with lake frontage and lake views. There is no longer a public campground on the shore, but tent and RV accommodations are available at other nearby lakes. Commercial lodgings in the form of hotels and motels can also be found in the area. It's a comfortable train ride from the Village down to the Loop, making both lakes the perfect location to become a resident Lake Lubber. Come check out the Village of Third Lake.
*Statistics are for Druce Lake only.
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