Mermet Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area Guide

Have you ever visited Mermet Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in southern Illinois?

It’s an amazing spot for all different kinds of recreational uses. Whether you’re a boater, kayaker, fisherman, hunter, cyclist, hiker, or wildlife watcher – there is something for you at this little Southern Illinois gem.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages Mermet Lake. It’s located near Metropolis in Massac County, Illinois.

The lake is made up of an old cypress swamp. Illinois required the land in 1949. In 1962, a system of levees was constructed to create the lake. After the duck season, a water well and pump system is used to return water to the lake.


How to get to Mermet Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area

Getting to Mermet Lake is fairly easy. All the roads to the State Fish and Wildlife Area (SFWA) are paved. The roads within the SFWA are mainly gravel but should be accessible by all vehicles. During wintry conditions, the road may not be accessible. Please use caution if traveling to the SFWA during wintry conditions.

To reach Mermet Lake from Marion, Illinois – Take I-57 southbound and merge onto I-24 South. Take Exit 27 (New Columbia/Big Bay) and turn RIGHT on Big Bay Road to head towards New Columbia (west). Turn RIGHT on New Columbia Road and head north. Drive through New Columbia and turn LEFT at Teague Hill Road (blacktop). Drive until you reach the stop sign at Highway-45 and turn RIGHT. Then make a quick LEFT and cross the railroad tracks on Grinnel Road. Take the first LEFT after crossing the tracks onto Mermet Lake Road. You’ve reached the SFWA destination.

To reach Mermet Lake from Paducah, Kentucky – Take I-24 northbound into Metropolis. Take Exit 37 (Metropolis/Brookport) after crossing the Ohio River. Turn LEFT on Highway-45 and drive through Metropolis and outside of town. Drive 23 miles to Grinnel Road and turn LEFT, crossing the tracks. Shortly after crossing the railroad tracks, turn LEFT of Mermet Lake Road. You’ve arrived at your destination.


What to do at Mermet Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area

Mermet Lake has ample opportunities for all different types of recreational users. The area is for day use only. There is no camping at the lake. For nearby camping, I suggest going to Fort Massac State Park. They have electric and non-electric camping available.


Fishing and Hunting

Mermet Lake is known for its fishing and hunting opportunities. The shallow lake contains standing and fallen trees and a swamp-like environment with old cypress trees. You can catch largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, channel catfish, buffalo, carp, and other feeder and rough fish.

Fishing can be done on the bank or by boat. There are parking areas along the lake to accommodate bank fishing. Please practice Leave No Trace and pack out what you pack in.

The lake is 452 acres with a maximum depth of 12 feet. You may use a boat with motors of up to 10 H.P. Four boat launches are available on the lake. Kayaks and canoes are also permitted to use the lake.

There are 30 permanent blinds. During the waterfowl season, a check station is in operation. There will be a daily drawing to use the blinds for no charge. Two flooded walk-in areas are also provided. Hunting for dove, deer, squirrel, rabbit, and quail are permitted in designated areas. Please see the Illinois DNR Hunter Factsheet for more hunting information.

The lake is closed to fishing and other recreational activities during the waterfowl hunting season.

One of the largest archery competitions in the country is hosted at Mermet Lake. Both youth and adults compete from all over the country.


Scenic Driving and Cycling

The road around Mermet Lake is around 6 miles in length. It is a loop. It is mainly gravel. It would be ideal for scenic driving or bicycling.

There is a speed limit of 15 MPH on the road around the lake. It is one-way traffic. Cyclists should yield to the right for vehicles passing. There are several pullover spots and parking areas.

Since the road is gravel, cyclists should use gravel, hybrid, or mountain bikes. A road bike would likely not be suitable on this road.

The road is not shaded.

Motorists and cyclists riding on the road can enjoy views of the lake and surrounding hardwoods and spot various forms of aquatic and flight-based wildlife, including egrets, herons, and bald eagles.

Recreational motorists and cyclists should avoid the lake road during waterfowl hunting and archery competitions.


Hiking and Walking

Walking around the lake (or running) outside waterfowl hunting and archery competition seasons is also permitted. Please watch for traffic and put safety first.

There are two hiking trails on site. A half-mile interpretive trail with tree identification signage and a boardwalk goes into a cypress swamp. There is another one-mile nature trail with tree identification signage present. These trails are sometimes overgrown during summer and may be inaccessible. There are signs along the road indicating where the trails are located.


Wildlife Watching

Mermet Lake is a great area to visit for wildlife watching. You can see deer, turkey, rabbits, and other forest wildlife in the hardwood trees around the property’s perimeter and along the hiking trails.

Plenty of flight-based wildlife, including ducks, geese, egrets, herons, and bald eagles.

The lake is also home to many snakes. This is a great spot to see mud snakes, a sought-after snake among snake watchers. Snakes are a protected source of wildlife on the property. It is unlawful to harm, harass, handle, or collect snakes at Mermet Lake.

Other wildlife and nature viewing are possible along the lake.


Sightseeing, Lodging, Dining, and Shopping Nearby

Other opportunities for entertainment and fun nearby Mermet Lake are worth checking out.

Mermet Springs is located one mile north of the lake. Mermet Springs is a former rock quarry turned into a scuba diving destination. Remember the move, US Marshals? The big airplane from the movie was submerged in Mermet Springs. There are other vehicles also in the quarry. If you’re into scuba diving, this is a destination for you.

There are other hiking and biking opportunities nearby Lake Mermet, too. You can hike at Big Cypress Access, Section 8 Woods, and the Wetlands Center around Karnak, which is all a part of the Cache River State Natural Area. The southern terminus of Tunnel Hill State Trail is also located in Karnak. Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis has hiking, biking, picnicking, disc golf, and historical touring opportunities.

Camping is available at Fort Massac State Park and Main Brothers’ Campground in Karnak. Hotels and other lodging are available in Metropolis.

Metropolis also has many dining establishments. Some of our favorites are Fat Edd’s Roadhouse, Cordavino’s Italian Dining, Bill’s BBQ, Yesterday’s, and Super City Bar and Grill.

While in Metropolis, check out the Superman Statue and the Superman Museum. Metropolis is the Official Home of Superman.

When visiting Mermet Lake, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the surrounding area.

Watch the videos for this trail!

Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.

Check out the trail gallery!

Enjoy these photos taken around this area!

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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