Pack the car, then pitch the tent

Forest districts offer convenient camping options just a short drive from home

Tired of camping out in the backyard but not interested in a long drive to a campground? The forest preserve districts of DuPage and Cook counties have the answer.

Blackwell Family Campground

The family campground at Blackwell in Warrenville, with more than 60 wooded and semi-wooded sites to accommodate tents, trailers and motor homes, opens tomorrow. And people are anxious to go.

"It looks like we have quite a few reservations already for the coming weekends. As of right now, we're sold out for this weekend," say Jay Johnson, manager of site operations, community services and education for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

"Blackwell has always been a great location for camping for a few reasons," Johnson said. "The biggest one, especially in these times, is it's close to home.

"You can literally check out the weather forecast on a Tuesday and be camping on a Friday or Saturday," he added.

The campground offers campers a more private experience than they might have at a more open location.

"Our campground is a bit unique in that each site has got a buffer between them, a natural buffer, either trees or native plants," Johnson said.

Blackwell Forest Preserve has a number of amenities that will keep campers busy all weekend long. Boat rentals are closed for the summer because of COVID-19, but private boating is available on Silver Lake, a 60-acre lake adjacent to the campground that also is a great place to go fishing.

"We have a real variety of fish within the lake," Johnson said.

Paddleboarders also are welcome to bring their own boards to use on the lake, as long as they have a permit (available online or at visitor services).

Campers can bring their own gear and use the archery range or head out for a hike on one of the trails.

The trail system at Blackwell connects to several adjacent preserves as well, Johnson noted. Climbing to the top of Mount Hoy offers a great workout and a scenic vista of the preserve.

New this year, photos of each campsite are available online for those looking to make a reservation. Johnson was willing to share a few of sites he likes best.

"Site 27 is my personal favorite. It's kind of separate from the other ones and it's on a bit of a hill with mature oaks," he said.

He also likes site 4, which faces the lake.

"Honestly, you can't go wrong," he said.

Each campsite offers a gravel parking pad, fire ring picnic table and electricity, with portable toilets, running water and trash and recycling containers nearby. Bathrooms and sinks will be available, but shower facilities will remain closed due to COVID-19.

"Staff will be going through the area and sanitizing a couple of times a day," Johnson said.

Rates are $20 per site per night for DuPage residents and $30 per site per night for nonresidents. The campground closes at sunset and the front gate is locked.

Reservations are being accepted through Sept. 30. Call visitor services at (630) 933-7248.

For a map of the campground and a list of COVID camping guidelines, visit > preserves > Blackwell.

Camp Bullfrog Lake

Whether the family prefers camping in a tent, cabin, bunkhouse or RV, the campground at Bullfrog Lake in Willow Springs is now open.

A portion of the extensive Palos Trail System winds through the site, inviting visitors to navigate rolling hills and deep ravines, and providing beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. Fishing is available on the 16-acre Bullfrog Lake, which is home primarily to bluegills, sunfish and black bullheads. Kayaks are available for rental at the Maple Lake Boating Center located just east of the camp across Wolf Road. The campground also is just a short drive from the Little Read Schoolhouse Nature Center, the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center and the Swallow Cliff Stairs.

Reservations for tents and cabins are available from Wednesday through Saturday nights and every day for RVs.

Tent sites offer a 10-by-10 foot mulched tent pad with timber edge, a picnic table and a fire ring with a grate. The rates are $31-$36 for Cook County residents and $41-$46 for DuPage residents.

RV/tent campsites with electricity feature 12-by-24 to 14-by-40 combined gravel parking space and gravel tent pad with timber edge, 30/50 or 20 amp electric systems, a picnic table and a fire ring with a grate. Rates are $36-$51 for Cook residents and $46-$61 for DuPage residents.

The camp offers large cabins (for up to 10 people) with heating and air conditioning, bunk beds for eight, single beds for two in a separate room, a private accessible restroom (toilet, shower and two sinks), a porch, a picnic table and a fire ring with grate for $102-$127 a night for Cook residents and $114-$141 a night for DuPage residents.

Small cabins have bunk beds for eight people, a ceiling fan, a porch, a picnic table and fire ring with a grate. Rates are $52-$63 for Cook residents and $84-$94 for DuPage residents.

For reservations, call (855) 937-2267.

For more information about the preserve and COVID-19, visit > Things to do > Camping.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean