The 77-acre Lake Carlton provides excellent fishing including several fishing piers and bank fishing. Lake Carlton’s boat ramps allow avid anglers a chance to chase the many species of fish in the park’s waters, too. (PA photo/M. Nester)
By MIKE NESTER | For The Prairie Advocate News
MORRISON—Highlighted by Lake Carlton, Morrison-Rockwood State Park provides numerous outdoor activities, including one of the best fishing spots in the state.
Located north of Morrison off IL Rt. 78, the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources facility lies on 1,164 acres in Whiteside County and includes a 77-acre lake.
Established in 1971 when it opened for "day-use only,” Morrison-Rockwood is named for the city as well as the woodlands surrounding Rock Creek.
The park’s main feature is Lake Carlton, a watershed impoundment constructed in 1969 by building a 38-foot high, 1,800-foot long dam across Rock Creek. The lake was named in memory of L. Carlton Anderson, a local citizen who promoted the park and was a civic and conservation leader.
Providing angling opportunities for beginners and avid fisherman, Lake Carlton offers a variety of fish including largemouth bass, black crappie, rock bass, channel catfish, sunfish, bluegill, muskie and walleye. Initial stocking of the lake was completed in 1970 and the lake has been managed since then to maintain a plentiful fishing variety.
Access to the lake is available from a two-lane concrete boat ramp, located at the east end. Outboard motors are restricted to 10 HP and under, and all boats with motors operate under "no wake" speeds to protect the shoreline from wave erosion.
Lake Carlton features 2.9 miles of shoreline and has an average depth of 12 feet, with a maximum depth of 27 feet. In addition to shoreline fishing, there are nine piers designated for fishing.
Another attraction to Morrison-Rockwood is the park’s expansive campground located at the north end of the facility. Nestled among the hardwood timbers, it features 92 camping sites (59 which are available by reservations) and a youth camping area.
Each camping site has electricity, grill and a table. A shower building with flush toilets is available from May 1 until Oct. 31 and a trailer dump station is conveniently located near the campground.
Equestrians may use a 14-mile trail through the park, complete with a watering well and an overnight camping site with shelter.
The state park has three picnic areas—Lakeview, Cedar Ridge, and Wilderness Woods—all equipped with tables and outdoor stoves.
Lakeview, a pavilion with a fireplace, overlooks Lake Carlton and has electrical outlets for those seeking modern conveniences. Lakeview and Cedar Ridge can be reserved for large groups and family reunions.
If you’re looking for an adventurous hike, Morrison-Rockwood’s 3.5-mile nature trail provides that opportunity. Winding through the park’s terrain, the trail has numerous scenic views of the lake and is clearly marked. The trail is a must see in the spring when wildflowers are in bloom.
Whether you venture out on the trails, fish by the lake, or just drive through the park, chances are you’ll encounter the abundant wildlife the park holds. Lucky visitors may see rabbits, squirrels, quail, pheasants, foxes, coyotes, muskrats, groundhog or deer.
Bird watchers will not be disappointed at Morrison-Rockwood State Park. There are over 150 species of birds among the plentiful stands of hardwoods.
Morrison-Rockwood also offers the outdoorsman hunting opportunities for deer, dove and squirrel. The hunting area is comprised of timber woodlots, brushy draws, and fence line interspersed with open grasslands with corn, milo, and sunflower food patches.
Deer hunting is allowed during archery season and the first shotgun season. A dove hunting area is also open to public hunting during September and squirrel season runs from Nov. 1 to the start of first firearm deer season.
Winter sports are also popular at the park. Ice fishing and ice skating are permitted on Lake Carlton and 14 miles of cross country ski trails are available.
Another amenity of the park is a concession facility with fishing tackle, boat rentals, bait sales, and a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a variety of snacks. The bait/boat rental is open April 1 to Oct. 31, 7 a.m. to sunset; while the restaurant serves the public from April 1 to Oct. 31, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information contact the Morrison-Rockwood State Park, 18750 Lake Road, Morrison, Illinois 61270 or phone 815-772-4708.