Lake Chaminwood: A must-see spot

If you love colorful sunsets, kayaking and fishing, Lake Chaminwood is the place to be

|  Story by Meghan McMahon |


Tucked away on the western edge of Will County, Lake Chaminwood, in Troy Township, is one of the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s newest preserves, with land for the preserve acquired between 2000 and 2011.

The preserve’s name is a tribute to the adjacent towns: “Cha” for Channahon, “min” for Minooka and “wood” for Shorewood. The main attraction at the preserve is the lake, which is actually two lakes — one 35 acres and the other 12 acres. 

The lakes are popular for fishing, paddling and simply enjoying the views and nature, and one reason for their popularity is because the water is so clear. Both lakes were originally created and used for quarrying. The smaller lake reaches depths of up to 20 feet, while the larger lake is 25 feet deep at its deepest point.


The water at Lake Chaminwood is so clear for a few reasons. First, lakes in old gravel quarries tend to have more clear blue water, said Erin Ward, an interpretive naturalist for the Forest Preserve District. This is because the land around the lake provides a lot of filtration for the lake water. There are also springs in the lake that supply some of the lake water. 

The water is so clear at Lake Chaminwood that you can often see fish and other wildlife swimming from either the shoreline or while in a boat on the water. This is one reason it’s such a popular spot for fishing.

“It’s a great sport fishing lake, in particular for bass, but people catch catfish, crappie and bluegill as well,” Ward said.

The calm, clear water is also what makes it such a big draw for those with kayaks and canoes. That’s one of Ward’s favorite activities there, and she gets to spend a lot of time on the water at Lake Chaminwood as an instructor for paddling programs offered by the Forest Preserve District.


An aerial view of Lake Chaminwood.

(Photo by Chad Merda)

“I’ve taught hundreds of people how to kayak there, and those are probably my favorite experiences,” she said. “Giving people those experiences, creating memories and teaching a skill that gets people closer to nature is a really rewarding experience for me.”

Plus, some of those past program participants become familiar faces on future visits.

“Every time I go back to this preserve, I run into at least one of my past participants out there just enjoying all nature has to offer,” she said. 

Lake Chaminwood is also notable because it’s one of the best spots in the preserves to experience a picture-perfect sunset. The lake helps, of course, because a colorful sunset against a backdrop of water is always extra special, but even among preserves with waterways Lake Chaminwood stands out.

“I think a big reason for this is because you can get out onto the back lake where it is quiet,” Ward said. “This preserve is pretty busy during the day, but once it gets to late afternoon, it gets pretty slow, so when you’re out there, there are not very many people around. It is peaceful and serene.”

A view of the lake at sunset.

(Photo courtesy of William Kaluzny)

No boat? No problem. You can still get a good view of the sunrise at Lake Chaminwood on the trail bridge. The bridge spans the spot where the two lakes are connected, so it’s a perfect place to take in the sunset. 

“You’re surrounded by nature, with no views of any buildings or even the parking lot,” Ward said. “It’s like being in a different world.”

The District’s future plans for Lake Chaminwood Preserve include the addition of a trail connection to connect the preserve trail to the I&M Canal State Trail and expansion of the parking at the preserve.

A scenic sunset view of Lake Chaminwood.

(Photo by Chris Cheng)

Wildlife and habitats

As would be expected at a preserve where water is the main attraction, much of the wildlife at Lake Chaminwood is either aquatic or semiaquatic. There’s fish, of course, but also plenty of reptiles, birds and mammals around the preserve.

“Many times, you’ll see turtles resting on logs and even floating in the clear water,” Ward said. “Muskrats are plentiful, and every now and then you see beaver.”

In the back lake, it’s common to see northern water snakes as well as great egrets, double-crested cormorants and great blue herons, she said.  

A northern water snake poking out of the water.

Northern watersnake. (Photo by Anthony Schalk)

Two Halloween pennant dragonflies.

Halloween pennant dragonfly. (Photo by Anthony Schalk)

A fox squirrel eating a nut in a tree.

Fox squirrel (Photo by Anthony Schalk)

Because the preserve is one of the District’s newer properties, minimal habitat restoration work has been done, Ward said. In some areas, invasive plants are prevalent, but you can also see a variety of native prairie wildflowers along the trail and beyond.

You might see the yellow blooms of black-eyed Susans, purples from purple coneflower and monarda and various colors from different kinds of milkweed plants and other prairie plants.

Illinois bundleflower.

Illinois bundleflower (Photo by Chad Merda)

Recreation opportunities

Lake Chaminwood is one of the Forest Preserve District’s premier fishing locations, and the two lakes are popular spots for anglers, both on the water and along the shoreline. Statewide fishing regulations apply at all forest preserve properties. Only line fishing is permitted, and anglers can use a maximum of two poles at one. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged.

Preserve visitors fishing along the shore.

(Photo by Anthony Schalk)

With its two lakes, canoeing and kayaking are popular activities at Lake Chaminwood as well. Ward said it’s a good place for beginning paddlers because the water is calm and clear and it has an easily accessible launch area from the parking lot. Plus, because it’s not a huge body of water, it’s easy to stay close to the shore, where you can explore.

Anyone is welcome to paddle at Lake Chaminwood, and the preserve hosts many Forest Preserve District paddling programs during the boating season. Small fishing boats are permitted as well. 

The District does not charge launch fees at the preserve. At Lake Chaminwood, only boats that can be carried on top of a vehicle are permitted, because the preserve does not have boat trailer parking.

Swimming and wading are not allowed at Lake Chaminwood or at any Forest Preserve District properties. Float tubes and paddleboards are also prohibited.  

The preserve has a 0.7-mile looped paved trail around one of the two lakes, and it’s perfect for a variety of fitness pursuits, including walking, running and in-line skating. In the water, the trail is a perfect place for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

Lake Chaminwood has one picnic shelter, and it can accommodate groups of 25 or less. Permits are not available for the picnic shelter; it is available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

(Lead image by Chris Cheng)

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