Compared to other cities in the U.S., Chicagoans really don’t have a lot of camping opportunities to scratch that primordial itch of experiencing the outdoors. I think Illinois’ lack of State Parks can probably be attributed to the massive Cenozoic-era glacial ice sheets that plowed through most of the state 10,000 years ago, leaving behind a very flat and bland landscape that is now almost entirely utilized for farming. The glaciers gave us some damn good soil, the Great Lakes, and a network of navigable waterways, but it leveled hills, filled valleys, and took out just about all the profile in our state.
But take a mini road-trip about 2 1/2 hours West to Galena, IL and you’ll hit the “Driftless Area” where the glaciers didn’t quite reach. Here lies Apple River Canyon State Park, a scenic (and not-so-flat) spot for camping, hiking, and fishing. In the spring, the DNR stocks the river with keeper-size rainbow trout, but Apple River is also well-known for smallmouth bass fishing.
Some pictures of Apple River Canyon State Park and a quick fishing report.
The campsites were clean and secluded, each had a picnic table and a fire pit.
The campsite is a very short walk from the river
The man in the picture told me this used to be a good spot for fishing, but since the 2013 spring floods, the river opened up and there aren’t many fish in this particular hole.
This is where they’re all at! I talked to a few locals and campground veterans who directed me to this spot. A deeper section of the river with several fishing holes stacked with bass and trout.
To get to this spot, you have to go to the “Youth Campground” section of Apple River Canyon and walk down the steep path to the river. There’s a few overgrown trails that lead to the water. Walk upstream (hope you don’t mind getting your shoes wet) to where the river forks and take the branch on the right and keep walking upstream. It’s a short walk, 200 yards from the Youth Camp.
Got one! I was lucky to catch this little guy since I’ve read that most of the trout are gone by June (they stock them in early April). I also caught 3 decent smallmouth bass, but park rules says it’s catch and release on the smallmouth so they escaped the campfire.