CARLYLE, Ill. — Carlyle Lake is a man-made lake located in Clinton County, Illinois. It was created as part of the larger Mississippi River and Tributaries Project, which aimed to control flooding and improve navigation in the region.

The lake was created by damming the Kaskaskia River at Carlyle, which is 107 miles from the river’s mouth. The Dam West Levee stretches across the Kaskaskia River, impounding the lake. At normal water levels, Carlyle Lake covers 26,000 acres and is 15 miles long and 3.5 miles wide.

Photo by: Liz Dowell
Carlyle Lake is 15 miles long, 3.5 miles broad, and covers a total area of 26,000 acres when it is at its usual water level.

Carlyle Lake was created in response to the frequent flooding of the Kaskaskia River in Clinton County. In 1933, a group of local residents formed the Kaskaskia River Valley Project to study the physical, economic, and social aspects of the river throughout Illinois.

After completing their report, the possibility of creating a reservoir at Carlyle was discussed. In 1938, Congress passed the Flood Control Act, which made it possible to build a large reservoir at Carlyle.

The government purchased 26,000 acres for the lake, as well as land surrounding the lake for flowage easements. During the construction of the lake, several homesteads, country roads, and railroads had to be relocated.

In addition, rights to 69 oil wells were purchased and plugged to prevent pollution of the lake, and over 600 burial sites had to be moved from seven cemeteries. The Burnside Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Clinton County, was moved to Eldon Hazelet State Park.

The lake is named after the nearby town of Carlyle, which was named after Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle. In addition to its primary purpose of flood control, Carlyle Lake also serves as a place for downstream navigation on the Kaskaskia River, a water supply for local towns and industries, and a popular spot for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

Photo by: Liz Dowell
Annually, Carlyle Lake hosts a full day of music, which is followed by a fireworks display over the lake. Bring your own food and drinks, as well as lawn chairs, blankets, and bikinis, and spend the day relaxing and having fun.

The lake is home to a diverse fish population, including large mouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill, and is a habitat for bald eagles, ospreys, and herons.

Carlyle Lake has had a significant economic impact on the region, attracting tourists and recreationalists and boosting the local economy. It is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who work to maintain the dam, levees, and other infrastructure at the site.

Overall, Carlyle Lake has played a vital role in the development of the region and continues to be a popular destination for visitors and locals alike.