Millstone Lake Guide
Shawnee National Forest
From the Hiking with Shawn
Trail Guide Series
Millstone Lake is a lake located in rural Pope County near the Village of Simpson, Illinois. The lake is about .2-square miles. Millstone Lake is open all year long, but visitors should note that the area is popular during firearms hunting season. Aside from hunting, Millstone Lake is commonly use for fishing, kayaking, small motor boating, and non-lake recreational activities such as hiking, horseback riding, jeeping and camping. In this guide, you will be able to see all the potential activities around Millstone Lake, how to get there and important information about safety and regulation concerning the lake. For the most recent updated information, trust this and other guides creating by Hiking with Shawn.
Millstone Lake Driving Directions and Parking Information
WARNING: The road to Millstone Lake is rough. It is a very narrow road once it turns into gravel. There are numerous potholes in the road as well as some heavily eroded portions. During heavy rains and flash flooding, the road is known to become impassable during and after the weather event. While the road does get some maintenance to it, it isn’t maintained as often as one might hope.
On a dry day when the road is clear, most vehicles should be able to drive on the road. However, drivers will need to slow down and take their time to get through the holes and erosion that is present. Very low-profile vehicles will likely have issues. Most of the gravel portion of the road is narrow and can only fit one vehicle. If vehicles meet, one will have to pull to the side and some areas will require backing up to do so.
At the point where the road turns into gravel, it almost seems like it is private property. It is not but the property around it is private. The homes at the start of the gravel road have residents so please be cautious for them since they actually live out there. Respect homeowners and their rights to private property.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Vienna, Illinois – Take Route-146 (EAST) past the enter/exit lanes of I-24 until your reach Route-147 to your left (NORTH). Turn onto R-147 and drive about 12.2-miles until you reach Millstone Lake Road on your left (NORTH) which is also Pope County Road 2660 N. The road is located to your left shortly after you pass Millstone Bluff. Note that Millstone Bluff and Millstone Lake are not the same locations. Turn left on Millstone Lake Road. Drive about .9-mile until the road curves to the left and turns into gravel. This is the point where you need to slow down and drive carefully. Drive about 1-miles until you reach the lake.
PARKING: Parking should be done to the right of the ramp down to the lake. Note to people with boat trailers – the ramp is steep and kind of rough asphalt. The bottom of the ramp has a dip and could be an issue getting back up when driving slowly. There is adequate parking available at Millstone Lake for regular vehicles, boat trailers and horse trailers.
Millstone Lake Points of Interest
There is plenty to do at Millstone Lake! The lake itself is commonly used for small engine boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. Common fish in the lake include Largemouth Bass, Channel Cat, Crappie, Sunfish and Warmouth. Fishing from the bank is possible but would be difficult in most areas around the lake due to lack of trails. Fishing by boat would be the most practical way of doing it. An interesting note about this lake is that is a part of Bay Creek and will eventually flow all the way to Bell Smith Springs. During higher water, it may be possible to kayak from Millstone Lake to Bell Smith Springs. However, the creek goes through private property in a few different sections before getting to Bell Smith Springs. I am not entirely sure on the laws concerning “navigable waterways” in Illinois. It is advised to look into this before attempting it to avoid issues concerning trespass.
Hiking and horseback riding trails exist around the lake. The River to River Trail passes along the lake which is open all year long to hikers and horseback riders. Trail 049 passes near the lake as well. That trail will take you to the Jackson Falls canyon area. The “old hippie bus” (an old bus turned into a former hunting cabin) is located on top of the hill at the end of the levee when walking past the lake (lake would be on your right). The lakes itself is a wonderful spot for photography as the reflection of the trees in the water make for great photos and the area is perfect for capturing fall colors. The area is considered unimproved, so people do tend to camp around the location of the lake. However, there is no official camping information about this particular area. This area is also used by jeeps and mountain bikes at times as well. During hunting season, expect many hunters to be in this area.
The parking area of Millstone Lake shows evidence of former blasting. Take a lot at the rocks where the blasting took place. You will see a circular shape in the middle with streaks of cuts surrounding it like of a flowering pattern. This is where dynamite was used to blast through the rock that was likely there when they were building the lake. Look around at the rocks – you will notice most of them have fossils in them. The US Forest Service rules on collecting rocks is as long as rocks are not bigger than the palm of your hand, are not dug up or collected in Natural or Archeological areas – persons may take smaller rocks unattached to anything. If you are unsure of this, please reach out to the US Forest Service for more information.
On the southwest side of the parking area, west of where the road starts to go back down to the highway is a unique area to see. Many people describe is like a canyon or shut-ins type environment. It is a small area of rocks that are free of dirt and sediment. It looks like canyons throughout the rocks and mazes of sorts. While this looks like it was caused by the ancient oceans that were once in the region, the truth is, the site creation is modern – like just a few years ago, modern! Basically, what happened was a flash flood occurred from very heavy rainfall. The flood breached the levee and flowed down the hill where this maze-like area is. All of the dirt that hid the rock went down the hill with the raging flood water and it left the maze-like site as an aftermath. It is remarkable to see in person and I highly suggest it. Please be careful though as it has created many hazardous conditions where one could fall and become seriously injured or worse.
Millstone Lake Safety Information and Regulations
Hazardous conditions are within this area including fall hazards and water-based hazards. Avoid these hazards by using common sense and putting safety first.
Venomous cottonmouth occurs in this area. Avoid a negative encounter with any snake by watching where you step, giving a snake plenty of room from you and not attempting to handle, harass or harm the snake. These actions are illegal in the Shawnee National Forest.
Poison ivy, bees, mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks occur in this area. Wash yourself after getting out of the forest and wear proper bug repellent before entering.
Horseback riders frequently use this area. If hiking or mountain biking and you see a horseback rider, stop and yield for them. Talk to the rider in a calm manner so that the horse knows you are a human. Read more information about sharing the trail with horseback riders at this link.
There are no trash services in this area. Please pack out what you pack in. Leave No Trace principals should be followed here.
Clean your boots with a bristled brush (bottoms and tops and laces) before hiking in this area to help reduce the spread of invasive plant species.
To fish, you must have a valid Illinois Fishing License with you.
Anglers may not use more than 2-poles and no more than 2-hooks or lures on each pole while fishing.
Channel catfish has a daily creel limit of 6 fish. Largemouth Bass has a minimum length limit of 15-inches.
Vessels may have only have motors of up to 10-horsepower at maximum. One life jacket per person must also be in the boat/kayak/canoe if not on the person.
This area is commonly patrolled by US Forest Service Law Enforcement and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police.
Please read the Full Regulations for the US Forest Service Shawnee National Forest area.
Other Things To Do Around Millstone Lake
Check out other hiking and equestrian opportunities at East Trigg, Jackson Falls and Trail 049. For hiking only, check out Millstone Bluff and Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area. For camping, we recommend Red Bud Campground near Bell Smith Springs, Jackson Falls for free primitive camping and Hayes Creek Canyon for horseback camping. For electrical camping, enjoy Hangout Campground in Eddyville. Also, in Eddyville is Shotgun Eddy’s for a very tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Adult beverages and music are also available. Murphy’s Pit BBQ is also a great place to eat and located just outside of Ozark. With permission and not during camping season, we recommend checking out nearby Camp Ondessonk as well.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
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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. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!