Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Homer Lake; Video Feature

As Year of the Park continues, we will be documenting every park in Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, Champaign County Forest Preserves, along with other odds and ends between July 2020 and more like August or September 2021. You can see what has been covered thus far by clicking here. If you have suggestions or ideas or feedback, feel free to contact us at [email protected].


Homer Lake


2573 S Homer Lake Rd, Homer


Homer Lake and its surrounding area has a fairly massive footprint for what it is around these parts. At 814 acres, it’s one of the largest “park” spaces you can find in Champaign County, and since the Forest Preserve District acquired it in 1971, it’s been a keystone spot for those living in C-U as a place to visit and get outside. 

The lake itself, which is 83 acres large and one of the only true fishing spots on the grid in Champaign County, was built in 1969 by the Illinois Department of Conservation. It’s a well stocked lake, filled with bluegill, walleye, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and more. For those who fancy themselves an angler, it’s a good spot to enjoy a day out on the water. 

But there’s a ton more to discover here outside of the lake itself. The newly built “playscape” has quickly become one of the best spots to bring kids. Chambanamoms did a really nice comprehensive overview of the preserve a few years back, and you can click this link to read more about it. 

open field of restored prairie with flowers and foliage

Screenshot by Tim Bailey.

Additionally, the Homer Lake Interpretative Center has been a welcomed spot for kids to learn about the nature that surrounds us here, with real time exhibits of all kinds of animals that live in and near the water like snakes, turtles, frogs and more. It was interactive in the pre-pandemic era, and should return to form as early as this year, given some good luck and good behavior on those around us. For now, you can sign up for virtual events, which is always a good thing to pursue on a rainy day. 

a picture of a wooden lodge next to a small lake

Screenshot by Tim Bailey.


We all know the truth about Champaign County and its topography and geography. It is lacking what most other population centers have in spades. But that is what makes CCFPD and its work over the past twenty years in particular that much more important. Homer Lake is a really really nice spot to spend a day, and my family counts it among our favorite spots around here to get outside and explore. We aren’t really an “outdoorsy” family, honestly. We hvaen’t ever been to an REI, and our one tent is mostly used for playing hide and go seek in the backyard. That is OK with us; we aren’t trying to be something we’re not. 

a drone overhead picture of homer lake

Screenshot by Tim Bailey.

But trails and time next to any body of water is something we love, and the simplicity of Homer Lake is what we love about it. Collins Pond, which I wrote about last year in my quest to document all of the parks and preserves around here, is such a worthy use of your time, and it is just around the corner and sort of tucked into the broader Homer Lake footprint. The Salt Fork River has lots of bends and little bluffs to enjoy, and with the weather changing from winter to summer in no time, and with mosquitos still at bay. now is the best time of year to get there and do your own memory making. 

Top Image by Tim Bailey.

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