June is National Camping Month

Celebrate by visiting one of the forest districts' conveniently located sites

Mention camping and it can elicit some strong emotions. Some have wonderful memories of camping as a kid and continue to do so as an adult. Others are perplexed or disgusted by the idea. Some have never even been to a campground.

The folks at the Cook County Forest Preserve District want to encourage novices to give it a try - and to welcome back experienced campers. That was the goal when the district refurbished two of its older campsites and opened three new ones, including Camp Bullfrog Lake in Willow Springs.

"They wanted to bring camping back and open it up to a different group of residents, to give them different options," said Andrew Johnson, regional director of operations for Indigo Troon, the company that manages forest district properties.

Camp Bullfrog Lake is the district's premier campground, he said.

"It has cabins. It has tent pads. It has RVs. It's built around a lake where you can fish. You can go kayaking," he said.

The small cabins at Camp Bullfrog Lake are available for rent year-round. They accommodate up to eight and have a ceiling fan, porch, picnic table and fire ring with grate. The cabins do not have a bathroom (guests use the campground bathroom) and they are not heated or air conditioned. Rates are $44 to $88 a night for Cook County residents, $55 to $98 for nonresidents, depending on the night and the season.

Up to 10 can stay in the large cabin, which also offers a private, accessible restroom with a toilet, shower and two sinks. Cabins are heated and air conditioned. Rates are $108 to $133 a night for residents, $120 to $148 for nonresidents.

"When you're introducing people to camping, not everyone wants to get into the sleeping bag," Johnson said.

The cabins, like the tent and RV sites, offer fire rings and picnic tables so guests can enjoy the outdoors.

Those who want to give tent camping a try can take advantage of the district's "Instant Camper" gear rental package.

The packages includes one tent, a flashlight, portable chairs, binoculars, one sleeping bag per person and one pillow (to keep) per person. Rentals are $70 for one person, $112 for two people and $177 for four. Individual items also can be rented.

Camp Bullfrog Lake, which is less than a 30-minute drive from Hinsdale, has five tent campsites and 26 RV/tent campsites with electricity. Tent campsites are $23 to $38 a night for residents, $33 to $49 for nonresidents. Tent/RV campsites are $29 to $54 a night for residents, $38 to $64 for nonresidents.

As Johnson mentioned, campers at Bullfrog Lake can rent a kayak or go fishing on the 16-acre lake. They also can explore one of the nearby forest preserve sites - the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, the Swallow Cliff stairs and the Palos trail system.

The district also offers camping workshops for those looking for additional skills (see sidebar).

Those willing to drive a bit farther might want to explore one of the forest district's other campgrounds, each of which offers different amenities. At the refurbished Camp Sullivan, for example, the historic barn is home to a 30-foot climbing wall, Johnson said.

"It's the get-away that's not far away," Johnson said, sharing one of the forest district's mottos.

Visit http://www.fpdcc.com for more information.

Blackwell Forest Preserve

The DuPage County Forest Preserve District offers camping at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville.

"This is a great place to test out your young campers," forest district Commissioner Linda Painter wrote in an email to constituents. "It's local with lots of things to do."

Blackwell offers seven miles of trails for hiking and biking. Guests can rent a canoe, kayak, rowboat or paddleboat to explore Silver Lake from April to September. People who can use their own canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the lake if they obtain a permit.

Silver Lake, White Pond and Sand Pond offer great fishing for bluegill, catfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, rainbow trout and walleye. A valid Illinois license is required for anglers 16 and older.

The campground has more than 60 wooded and semiwooded sites, including sites for tents, trailers and motor homes. All have electricity but none have sewage or water hookups.

Sites are available Friday and Saturday nights from May through Columbus Day weekend, with added nights around the holidays. Rates are $20 a night for DuPage residents, $35 a night for nonresidents. Permits are required.

"June is filling up, but the rest of the summer has a lot of availability," Painter communicated.

The preserve also has an archery range (permit and equipment required), a self-guided compass course and an off-leash dog area.

To obtain a permit or for more information, visit http://www.dupageforest.org.

Camping workshops

The Cook County Forest Preserve District is offering workshops this summer for those looking to learn more about camping outdoors.

Two will take place at Camp Bullfrog Lake, 9600 Wolf Road, Willow Springs.

• Camping & Cooking 101

6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 5

This two-hour workshop for all ages covers camping and outdoor cooking basics. Camping and cooking gear are provided.

• Camping 101: Overnight!

5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22, to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23

Learn camping skills then spend the night in this part workshop, part campout. The cost is $50.

To register, call (708) 771-1573 or visit http://www.fpdcc.com.

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean