Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is a popular site located in a rolling wooded area near Mahomet, Illinois. This beautiful preserve occupies almost 900 acres along the corridor of the Sangamon River. Highlighting Lake of the Woods are several well-known attractions: Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden, and Lake of the Woods Golf Course.


Lake of the Woods opens at 7:00 AM year-around, weather permitting. Closing times vary. Headquarters Office is open 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM Monday-Friday, closed on most Federal holidays.

Time of Year Closing Time
Monday-Sunday Varies
Second Sunday in March 7:00 PM
First Saturday in April (Peninsula open 24hrs, restroom closes at 7 PM) 9:00 PM
First Sunday after Labor Day in September 7:00 PM
First Sunday in November (Peninsula also closes at 5 PM) 5:00 PM

Activities Include:





Cross-Country Skiing

Building Rentals



Museum of the Grand Prairie

The Museum of the Grand Prairie has an extensive collection interpreting 19th- and early 20th-century life in East Central Illinois. Two floors of exhibits present architecture, agriculture, trades and occupations, decorative arts, and childhood and domestic life of the time. Educational programs are offered for all ages throughout the year. Children will especially love the many hands-on opportunities in the Discovery Room. The accredited museum is part of the Illinois Looking for Lincoln program where visitors will learn about Champaign County's Lincoln.

Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden

The Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden in Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is located just off Illinois Route 47 in Mahomet, Illinois. The garden boasts some of the most beautiful and diverse flora in East Central Illinois. Many couples have exchanged their wedding vows in this colorful setting. The garden has evolved over a period of years from a small garden outside the museum to the eight acres it covers today.

A major renovation in 1974 was spearheaded by H.I. Gelvin, the founder of the Forest Preserve District, and the area was named in tribute to his late wife, Mabery.

There is no fee to enter Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve or the Botanical Garden. You may access the garden through the Museum of the Grand Prairie, which also has no admission fee, or you may enter the garden by going around the museum to the gate on the east side. The garden is open the same hours as the preserve, generally 7 AM to sundown.

If you have questions or cannot find what you are looking for on our website, call (217) 586-3360 or e-mail [email protected]. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 1040, Mahomet, Illinois 61853, and the physical address is 950 N. Lombard, Mahomet, Illinois.

Lake of the Woods Golf Course

A favorite location for golfers is the Lake of the Woods Golf Course, which was designed by Robert Bruce Harris. Besides the award-winning 18-hole regulation course, there is a 9-hole Par 3 course and a practice range. A multi-year renovation was completed recently. Golfers will find revamped fairways, sand bunkers, ponds and teeing grounds, along with paved cart paths and a redesigned entrance. The course continues to maintain its status as a Certified Audubon Sanctuary, one of only two downstate courses to earn this environmentally-friendly distinction.

Hiking and Biking Paths

The 3.3-mile paved Bicycle/Pedestrian Path stretches the entire length of the preserve, winding through grasslands, prairie and wooded areas as well as crossing the Sangamon River on the Lake of the Woods Covered Bridge. The path receives considerable use from walkers, joggers, bikers, rollerbladers and others. There are also grass and woodland trails for visitors to enjoy.

Rayburn-Purnell Woods is an excellent example of an oak-hickory upland forest. The area was acquired by the Forest Preserve District from the Purnell and Rayburn families of Mahomet. The trail that winds through these woods is approximately 0.44 miles long. Use the links below to print a trail guide before your visit.  Horseback riding is not allowed on the trails.

HI-Tower and Carillon

One of the most impressive and recognizable facilities within Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is the HI-Tower. For four decades now, visitors from miles around have come to admire and ascend the six-story structure. Constructed between 1963 and 1965, the tower was named after the founder of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, the late H.I. Gelvin. Mr. Gelvin, president of the Board of Commissioners from 1948 to 1975, was instrumental in the creation of the tower, along with many other features throughout the park. The tower cost $55,000 to build and was financed through public donations. A large sum of that money came from a $31,000 anonymous contribution.

Architects Laz and Edwards of Champaign designed the structure, which is located on a grassy hill in the southeast side of the park just off Lake of the Woods Road. The design was based on features from numerous bell towers in Europe. The 16-square-foot tower stands 100 feet high. Thirty-five feet of that are comprised of the steeple-type, shingle roof. The roof weighs eight tons, and during construction, was hoisted up by a crane, using special equipment from Chicago. The ground floor of the tower is paneled in wood and brick. The second through fifth floors have masonry walls and narrow windows. The sixth floor is an observation deck, where visitors can look out over the park and the surrounding area. The HI-Tower is open daily, weather-permitting, with no admission charge. Also completed in the mid-1960s, Heritage Hall is part of the HI-Tower complex. Connected to the tower by an open breezeway, the building currently houses the District's administrative offices. On the south wall of the building is a huge fireplace built of 18th-century brick. This brick was originally used as ballast to stabilize sailing ships enroute to New Orleans from Great Britain.

The carillon is programmed to chime on the hour between 9 AM and 5 PM, and music plays at 15 minutes before and after each hour during that time. The carillon speakers are housed in the roof area, with the equipment itself located inside Heritage Hall. Originally at the base of the tower, it was moved inside many years ago to protect it from the elements. Visitors year-round climb the steps of the tower or sit below to enjoy the music. Children, especially, find it captivating and consider it a "must" for any visit to Lake of the Woods.

*Please note there is no longer a swimming beach at Lake of the Woods. There is still swimming available at our Middle Fork River Forest Preserve in Penfield.

Covered Bridge

After the purchase of an 80-acre tract of land west of the Sangamon River in the 1960s, the Lake of the Woods Covered Bridge was constructed to connect the two sides of Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet. Designed by German Gurfinkel, a Civil Engineering instructor at the University of Illinois, the bridge was a replica of the Pepperel Bridge near Boston.

In 1965, the bridge was dedicated in honor of Harold Moon, then Lake of the Woods Superintendent, who directed the actual construction. The work took 18 months and cost $55,000. The bridge was 140 feet long and 32 feet wide and was made of southern pine and Douglas fir. The dedication ceremony went off on schedule even though there were construction interruptions from two floods and delays in receiving lumber from the South.

In 1996, major repairs and renovations were made to the bridge. The base of the bridge was reinforced to prevent erosion, the entire deck was replaced, and the walkway area was widened as part of the newly-constructed bicycle-pedestrian path. The bridge continues to be a popular destination for visitors to Lake of the Woods.

Plug Into Nature at Lake of the Woods

Explore what Lake of the Woods has to offer! There is a golf course, botanical gardens, trails to hike, and rental facilities.

Boat Rentals

Rentals of pedal boats and kayaks are available Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Hours are 12-7 PM (last rentals at 6pm), Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and the cost is $10 per hour. The boathouse is located on the Lake of the Woods Peninsula, 101 N. Lake of the Woods Rd, at the intersection of Tin Cup Road and Lake of the Woods Road.

Help Support Our Foundation

The Foundation supports the facilities, programs, services, goals and mission of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. Help us make an environment to encourage cultural, historical and environment opportunities for all.